Cute&Fuzzy Animals Around The World Part#1-Penguins

We all love animals. This especially holds true for us vegans. So it comes as no surprise when we are captivated by the sight of the local wildlife wherever we may travel across this vast world of ours.

I hold such fond memories of my vacation to Capetown, South Africa a few years ago. One of the indigenous animals that captured my heart, was the penguins! There are few places in the world that penguins may call “home”. The southern region of South Africa is indeed one of them. My itinerary included a must-see visit to Boulder’s Beach where the penguin colony is found.

From a platform above the beach area, I first encountered the penguins gathered on the sandy shore. There appeared to be at least one hundred of these precious creatures.

As I glanced to my left, I noticed a great number of penguins perched upon rocks and boulders of varying sizes.

One observes various behavior patterns emerging when watching them over time. Several penguins seemed to wander off independently on their own to explore the landscape. One commenced walking about the twigs, seaweed, and barnacles that had washed ashore.

Eventually, he dug a small hole between a couple of the branches. Just having some solo fun, while playing around to pass the time of day, I suppose.

I even observed that some penguins had broken off into pairs…coupling up as companions as they strolled the sandy beach closely together. How adorable is THAT!

Meanwhile back at the rocky cove, a delegation of the tuxedoed gents had wandered onto the beach. Perhaps, they wanted to experience the cool beach waters or feel the luxurious soft sand stroking their feet. One little guy looked to be doing a belly flop.

Towards the shoreline, quite a few penguins were congregating. This was a happening place! A few were gathered together in a small group. Others appeared to standing face to face in pairs, as if they were conversing with one another. One or two were standing solo observing their furry friends and the beautiful landscape.


Moments later, I experienced what was to be the two most heartwarming memories of that day. As I glanced back down towards the sandy beach, I noticed that every one of the penguins had tilted their head to a diagonal slant with their beak wide open. In other words, it gave the impression that they were either singing or somehow communicating with each other! Honk! Honk!, could be heard emanating from their mouths! Picture-perfect sight to behold!

My afternoon tour was winding down, yet one additional surprise was to cross my path. I glanced down upon the edge of the beach from the sidewalk and it was then that I observed a penguin that had just given birth! A fuzzy little baby was leaning against her warm and furry belly. What a precious end to my day at the penguin colony!

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My 10 Tips For New Vegan Travelers

Many would-be travelers tell me that they hesitate visiting particular locations, in fear of not finding enough suitable meal options for a vegan. My response is always emphatically “Don’t worry! I have found INCREDIBLE vegan dining in countries where you would not expect it”! Honestly, there is no good reason these days to avoid any destination because of the dining scene you expect to find there.

I have compiled a list of ten tips to consider, in planning your next overseas holiday. These tips, based on my travel experiences, illustrate just how “first time” vegan travel is easier than you may think.

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Travel Because Of Diet Restrictions – In many regions of the world, all kinds of vegan food options are available. Tourist-centric cities and towns across the globe have vegetarian or vegan restaurants that offer standard international fare, such as veggie burgers, salads, vegan pizza, and so forth. Many vegetarian restaurants also offer vegan entrees. Even non-veg restaurants may offer a couple of vegan-suitable menu items. At the very least, many restaurants are willing to create and prepare a vegan-suitable entree upon request. That holds true internationally, as well. One vacation that comes to mind was in the Guadalajara, Mexico region. I was eager to dine one evening at a restaurant that was very popular among tourists due its fanfare, colorful decorations, and local ambiance. The chef prepared a vegan meal for me, due to my request upon arrival. No problem whatsoever.

You can typically find basic staples such as rice and veggies dishes at restaurants in most countries. I dined on this huge plate of brown rice and flavorful veggies in Norway.

Countries that you wouldn’t expect to have vegan food(eg. Iceland, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa) did indeed offer plenty of great vegan dining. Yes, even the barbecue capitals of the world: Rio, Brazil and the Patagonia region of Argentina, can proudly boast of some delicious vegan fare. Iceland and South Africa really impressed me with their variety and bounty of vegan-friendly restaurants. I found some wonderful vegan meals in each of these countries.
This pumpkin tofu cake with potatoes was one of my many delightful meals in Iceland!

2. Savor The Vegan Version Of Local Cuisine – Wherever I travel across the globe, I research in advance for any authentic local cuisine that may be offered in a vegan-friendly restaurant. In Peru, cerviche and lomo saltado are quite popular dishes. I was able to find the veganized version at a restaurant in Cusco. Brazil’s national dish is feijoada. Again, I was able to find a restaurant that served a vegan version. A vegan bakery in Copenhagen, Denmark offers the traditional Danish pastries. This local ethnic cuisine is what I crave most during my world travels.

My vegan tapas in Spain were awesome!

The vegetable tagines on which I feasted in Morocco were delicious!

Why one can even find authentic local desserts abroad , as well! My sfenj donut in Marrakech was simply yummy!

3. Seek Out Vegan Markets – Whether your travels take you across the USA or Europe or any other continent, you can find vegan markets are becoming all the rage. During my visit to Istanbul last summer, I spent some time in an all-vegan market that offers snacks, faux meats, vegan cheeses, and even skincare products. Germany is home to the all-vegan supermarket “Veganz”. Whether its vegan chocolate, vegan cheeses, mock meats, or vegan ice cream, this market has got everything a vegan may need while abroad. Customers can visit these markets to find vegan travel snacks for their lengthy bus tours. Sometimes a day tour is quite lengthy and by the time you are dropped off at your hotel, all of the vegan-friendly restaurants in town have closed for the evening. Stocking up in advance with food from a vegan market will solve this dilemma. For example, Vegan Dukkan is a well-stocked vegan market shop that I visited in Istanbul last summer.


4. Try The Local Fruits, Juices, and Teas – One of my favorite food experiences during my travels, is finding fruit that is indigenous to a particular country or region. Many countries do not export all of their fruit varieties. South America and the Caribbean are prime examples of this. I enjoy indulging in the sumptuous exotic fruit found around the world! South Africa offers the aloe ferox plant juice at various dining establishments. I consumed it as part of my breakfast meal. Unique teas can be found anywhere we travel in the world. Argentina has its mate tea. South Africa is know for its rooibos. Egypt offers hibiscus tea. Moroccans appreciate their mint tea. All are vegan.
Fresh local oranges in Morocco:
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Coconut juice in Trinidad & Tobago:

Mint tea in Morocco:

Aloe Ferox juice in South Africa:

5. Fall Back To Old Standbys For International Cuisine – As we all know, certain cuisines are popular no matter where you travel. Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Thai food have all earned global recognition for their tastiness. Restaurants offering these cuisines can be found in virtually any touristy region in the world. Fortunately, these cuisines have much to offer the vegan traveler. If you are vacationing in a city or country that does not offer much in terms of vegan food, a meal at an Indian restaurant is always a good option.
New Zealand is home to many wonderful Indian restaurants:

I ate dinner at a fantastic Ethiopian restaurant in Norway:

6. Stay At Hostels or Vegan Bed and Breakfasts – My accommodations of choice are typically hostels. Not only are they inexpensive, but travelers are not tied to a meal plan. Organized group tours usually include set meals at set restaurants, as well as hotel dining. None of it is guaranteed to be vegan (although my tour guides have requested in advance for restaurants to prepare something vegan for me). The cost to us is less if we are not required to dine at a particular restaurant, as with a hotel or an organized tour. Hostels offer their shared kitchen for guests to prepare their own meals. You can cook up those vegan food products that you may have purchased at a vegan market!

Vegan bed and breakfast inns exist around the world. Domestically and internationally, the vegan traveler can find an oasis of eco-friendly atmosphere and vegan dining.

I recently relished a stay at a vegan bed and breakfast in the Catskills of New York. They prepared a delicious breakfast of homemade vegan pancakes with soy yogurt and fruit:


7. Visit A Vegan Shop – Everywhere that I travel across the globe, I am finding more and more vegan shops. Some are dedicated to carrying vegan shoes and vegan handbags, wallets, and other accessories. Some shops and markets sell various vegan skincare products. Its always a treat to pick up a vegan purse or try a new vegan skincare product that you find during your travels.

8. Appreciate the local wildlife – Vegans truly appreciate all sentient beings. For those who are venturing out of their comfort zone to embark on exotic travels for the first time, nothing feels more exciting than visiting an animal sanctuary or seeing wildlife frolicking about in their natural habitat. Precious penguins at Boulder’s Beach, South Africa and adorable baboons in the Moroccan forests will leave a lasting impression on a vegan tourist’s heart!


9. Check Airline Meal Plans Online In Advance – Many airlines these days offer meal options for vegans. However, each airline uses its own terminology, not all of which is standard in the industry. VGML, Western Vegetarian, Vegetarian non-dairy are just a few of terms used by some of airlines. Travelers can request vegan-friendly meals online or call their airline in advance. Beware of condiments, breads, and desserts. They are typically not vegan. A few airlines, however, do indeed serve vegan buttery spread, vegan salad dressing, and snacks.

Air France offered this fabulous vegan meal during one of my overseas flights. Even the buttery spread was labeled as “vegan”! Very impressive that they go all out to cater to vegans.

10. Bring Some Vegan Packaged Meals And Snacks Just In Case – While many major tourist towns offer alot for vegan fare, one can not expect as much in remote or rural destinations. It is wise to pack several vegan foods in your luggage. A Well-prepared traveler always has options. Vegan snacks, dried pre-cooked oatmeal cups, and packaged meals that just need hot water are essentials to bring with you from home, in case of dining emergencies abroad. Freeze-dried camping meals come in a variety of tasty options and several brands offer vegan options. I have frequently made good use of my compact bowl and spork on a flight, in remote and rural destinations, or at my destination during the rare times when I couldn’t find suitable dining. In some locations, vegan restaurants close early in the evening which leaves you seeking a decent meal upon returning from a lengthy bus tour. Packing a few vegan staples is the essential!
Oatmeal for the flight:

vegan travel snacks for munching during day trips:

Packaged meals(or freeze-dried camping meals), in case you find yourself at any remotely rural location without any vegan dining:

Bonus Tip!: More frequently than not, vegan-friendly restaurants are located far from the city center. It is wise to familiarize yourself with the modes of transportation at your destination. Bring a printout of vegan-friendly restaurants and shops from or Ask the front desk at your accommodations for the best mode of transportation and route to get there. They are usually very helpful and will indeed take the time to give you detailed information and draw the route on the local map.

My experiences have shown me that these ten tips can most definitely make any vacation “worry-free” in terms of vegan dining. When you put these tips into practice, I am confident that your holidays as a first time vegan traveler will be hassle-free as well!

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Livin’ It Up Vegan-Style at the “Women In Travel Summit”

Travel enthusiasts. Travel bloggers. Travel entrepreneurs. I spent the past weekend with a lovely group of ladies who shared one particular trait: their passion for all things travel-related! The event that gathered us together was the “Women in Travel Summit” held in historic Boston, Massachusetts. Three hundred women from across the USA and the world eagerly awaited the weekend’s festivities, workshops, and networking with like minds.

As a vegan, I was to be especially thrilled throughout the weekend to discover vegan-friendly travel items, a vegan lunch upon request, and even eco-friendly volunteer vacations offered by a participating exhibitor at the conference!

Three ‘tracks’ of workshops were offered to us: 1. travel blogger, 2. entrepreneur, and 3. traveler.

Our weekend began with a keynote speaker who started the Saturday morning program with a talk about how she went from being “at her lowest point” in life both financially and emotionally, to eventually become a very successful entrepreneur and world traveler.

Dina Yuen is a respected author and businesswoman who takes many endeavors upon herself and accomplishes everything she sets her mind to do. Her triumphant mindset is firmly planted in the motto “Travel is Thy Medicine”. She told of her initial struggles and how she went from losing it all to being at the top of her game in every business venture she creates. When she lost everything, she began to travel internationally and found herself helping more unfortunate souls. This meaningful life lesson fueled her desire to help others and that in turn helped her to heal. My takeaway from her talk was that we should not give up, but that we are able to accomplish anything and everything we set our minds to.

The first workshop I attended was in the blogger track. Kristin Winet held a creative writing workshop for travel bloggers where we shared useful tips with each other for more effective writing styles. I gained some insight as to what makes a story more captivating to its readers.

Presenter number two was Catrice Jackson. She is known as the “Boss Lady of Branding”. Her goal is to help women discover their “soul brand”. Ms. Jackson stressed the importance of knowing your “soul scent”, that is what your convictions are and what you wish to convey to your audience with your brand. She inspired and motivated us! Unapologetic confidence is what she encourages us to exude to our clients and readers. This workshop was part of the entrepreneur track.

Break time gave us the opportunity to visit the various exhibitor tables in the hall. Lo and behold, I noticed a vendor with quite an interesting product. Squeezepod(Squeezepod) develops travel-size toiletries. What is unique about these products is that the ‘pod’ contains enough for one application. The small package only needs to be snapped off at the tip, then the product easily pours into your hand. No spill or mess. Perfect for flights, bus tours, or hotels. The product line includes moisturizer lotion, hair gel, shaving cream, and more.

Attendees were given a compact zipped pouch with multiple samples of each toiletry item. Then I read the label on the pouch. Could it be?! Yes indeed! The label said “Vegan’! I was ecstatic to find this vegan ‘treasure’ for my upcoming travels!

After perusing a few of the exhibitor tables, the lunch hour had arrived. As a well-traveled vegan, I knew to inquire about any vegan-friendly meal offerings asap. The dining staff manager told me that he will request his chef to prepare a vegan entree for me. As vegans, all we need to do is ASK, and meal options can most likely be offered to us almost anywhere we go.

In the meantime, the salad being served to attendees was perfectly vegan-friendly. The presentation was pretty, as the salad greens were rolled up into a dinner napkin shape. The greens and tomatoes were fresh and tasty. The dressing was a nice vinaigrette.

A wonderful platter of melons and berries also accompanied my plate.

The vegan entree prepared for me was a plate of steamed veggies(okra, carrots, and squash), rice, and small potatoes with tomato. I was so happy to feast upon this delicious vegan meal!

Much to my joyous surprise, even the chocolate layered cake topped with berries, was vegan!

The first afternoon workshop I attended was a talk on search engine optimization, led by SEO guru Brooke Roberts. I am excited to put into practice all the important strategies that I learned at this extremely educational and informative lecture.

The final workshop of the day was on the topic of press trips. A panel of a well-established travel writers told of their experiences and adventures while on press trips sponsored by various tourism boards and visitor bureaus.

Day two of the travel summit opened with a keynote talk by the founder of the event, Beth Santos of Go Girls Travel Network. She encouraged women to travel and to write and to join travel organizations(such as Go Girls) to network with each other.

Beth also made an announcement to launch “Sheswanderful”, the new name of the former “Go Girls”. Great travel-related item perks are given to those who join the yearly membership.

A representative from “Unearth The World” took the stage. Kathryn Pisco the founder shared with the audience, her company mission to match travelers with unique volunteer opportunities in various countries. Her mission was to create a company where clients would not need to pay any high fees just to participate in a volunteer project. The cost of her volunteer vacations is minimal. Volunteer costs include accommodations at local homestays, basic guesthouses, or tents. Vegans may delight in the Nicaragua opportunity to spend time on a farm project harvesting coffee or bananas. This farm uses permaculture design to sustain the ecological systems.

The first workshop on Sunday was by Melissa Hogan, on the topic of making wordpress sites run smoothly. Another super-informative and valuable lesson for me and for all of the travel writers in attendance.

During break time, there were plenty of exhibitors to see. I stopped by Delsey. They manufacture some pretty cool luggage. Many pieces are vegan-friendly, non-leather materials!

A larger suitcase has a TSA lock built into the front.

A stylish red piece is incredibly lightweight with spinner wheels, yet packs many items into its deep interior. Both the exterior and interior are fabric materials.

The next talk I attended, presented by Jess Ainlay, was on the topic of online protection. Attendees were well-informed about copyrights, trademarks, and what to do in case of infringement issues.

Theresa Christine spoke on the topic of content that travel writers can create, during the times when they are not traveling. She shared some very useful tips to keep readers engaged and interested.

We were given an additional break, when we could meet with exhibitors or do some networking. I stopped by the WHOA travel travel. This vendor offers adventure travel. Whether your idea of travel is kayaking and ziplining or something a little less daring such as hiking, they’ve got it! Excitement, culture, and natural landscape beauty is what their trips have to offer! Their Costa Rica adventure offers an opportunity to experience some precious animals. Us vegans truly appreciate nature and wildlife, thus making this type of touring ideal for us!

The travel summit weekend was wrapping up, but not before the final keynote speaker took the stage. Kate McCulley who quit her job five years ago to become a full-time professional traveler and blogger, gave a presentation on gender inequality among travel writers. She left us with a hopeful message that women can continue to produce great writing content, band together for support, and eventually gain the recognition that we collectively and individually deserve. She went on to mention quite a few female travel writers who produce great reads, photography, and adventurous travel experiences. The future is bright!

The event ended with a contest giveaway of three Delsey pieces of luggage to the lucky winners.

As the three female attendees gathered together for a group photo, we all took stock in this inspirational weekend in which we had participated. I am truly appreciative of the amazing weekend that I experienced at the Women in Travel Summit! The incredible learning experiences, the wonderful networking with other travel-enthusiast women, the awesome travel products exhibited, the magnificent volunteer travel opportunities presented, and the delicious vegan food offered, I will remember positively for a long time to come!

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Vegan Travel: My Weekend Visit To The DC Travel Show

It had come to my attention that two of my favorite and most respected tv travel hosts would be giving presentations at the Washington DC Travel & Adventure Show! Many people get excited and even “giddy” at the thought of meeting their favorite actor or rock star. However, as a travel enthusiast and travel blogger, I was thrilled at the thought of meeting my favorite travel hosts from popular television travel programs! Rick Steves and Samantha Brown are beloved travel hosts on PBS tv and The Travel Channel, respectively. Since they do not give talks at my local travel show in Boston, I headed to Washington DC to attend their presentations and to “soak in” all of the travel wisdom that a large travel show has to offer!

Before embarking on the ten hour overnight journey from Boston to DC, I thought it would be a wise decision to purchase a pair of rain/snow boots, since the updated forecast called for some snow on the previous day. Sudo Shoes(Sudo Shoes) in Cambridge, Massachusetts is an all-vegan shoe and accessories store. They carry a vegan rain boot brand called “Bogs”. I purchased a pair of Bog’s stylish green rain booties to help me manuever the snowy and slushy sidewalks of DC.

The midnight bus from Boston took me on an overnight ride, arriving in DC at approximately 9:45 the following morning.

The first item on my agenda was breakfast, of course! We need to be alert and full of energy for our travels! I’ve written about DC restaurants a few years ago during a longer trip there. For this visit, I would only be in town for the day, taking the return bus home at 6:50 right after the travel show. Thus, my breakfast would need to be at a location not too distant from the bus station or the conference center where the travel show was being held. Fortunately, there was a restaurant that opened early for breakfast and was fairly close distance to the Union Station bus depot.

“Dangerously Delicious Pies” (Dangerously Delicious Pies) is a small restaurant that offers several vegan savory and sweet pies on their menu.

The day I visited, there were a couple of savory options for vegans. I purchased the vegan chili pie for breakfast. The pie contains kidney beans, onions, tomatoes, and spices in a flaky crust. It was a fabulously delicious meal!

I also purchased a vegan ratatouille pie to bring with me to the travel show as my lunch. This pie contained a variety of winter vegetables in a stewed tomato sauce. My meal was really tasty and filling! The pies are an inexpensive meal option for any time of day! For those craving a sweet snack, all of the fruity berry pies offered as vegan.

I flagged down a taxi immediately after breakfast and got whisked away to the Washington Convention Center where the Travel & Adventure Show was being held! The show offers travel advice seminars, tv travel show host presentations, travel agencies and tour company exhibitor booths, world dance performances, cooking demos, and vacation giveaway contests.

Lo and behold, the very first exhibitor I noticed upon entering the exhibit hall, was The Travel Channel booth! My heart went pitter patter as I beheld the logo of my favorite tv network on the booth!

The show volunteers gave attendees a couple of Travel Channel gifts when stopping by the booth. My gifts included a tote bag and luggage tags, displaying the Travel Channel logo!

At the Global Beats Stage, I spent a few minutes being entertained by a dance troupe performing classic Kuchipudi dances from southern India.

I stopped by a few exhibitor booths which represented tour companies from destinations that I would like to visit in the future, such as India and Tanzania. Attendees could speak with the tour company representatives and pick up some travel brochures.

Several vendor booths offered travel-related clothing, gear, and accessories. One vendor sold clothing that claims to be “pickpocket proof” due to hidden pockets. What a cool concept this is!

The time had arrived for the first speaker presentation on my itinerary! Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel gave a noontime presentation on “Then and Now: How Travel Has Changed”. The room was packed! I was fortunate enough to get a seat in the front row, directly in front of the podium!

Samantha was exuberant and enthusiastic, as always! The talk began as she spoke of some of her favorite vacations and experiences.

She then spoke of travels of the past, where a trusted guidebook would be our only knowledge base. Travel agents would provide travelers with all the details of their vacation and would book the complete package for them. These days, in a web-based society, we google our travel destinations and book everything online. Travel apps for our mobile devices make travel easier, as we can check our flight schedules, weather, and tours. Samantha mentioned several of her favorite apps, such as google translate for foreign language translation assistance.

After her presentation, Samantha did a “meet and greet” with her fans.

While we were waiting in line to meet Samantha, we were able to hear and see a travel tips presentation on “travel safety”. The speaker mentioned RFID-protected sleeves to protect credit cards from identity theft during travels.

Samantha graciously took a photo with each of us and also gave us her autograph! She was really nice! We spoke of the Massachusetts/ New Hampshire region where both of us grew up! I told her that my favorite vacation destination in the USA is the same as hers.. Cape Cod! This presentation with “meet and greet” was one of the highlights of my day!

The next presenter would not go on stage for about 45 minutes, so that gave me plenty of time to enjoy more of the exhibitor halls!

Back at the Travel Channel booth, guests could take a photo in front of the ‘green screen” with their selected travel destination superimposed in the background of their photo. I chose a backdrop of “Rome, Italy”. For props, I selected a pair of binoculars and a sign that read “Bucket list”. It was a fun activity that made me feel like an actual Travel Channel host for that brief moment in time!
Me at the travelchannel greenscreen

The next presenter to hit the stage was Josh Gates. His new program on the Travel Channel is called “Expedition Unknown”. This guy exudes an adventurous spirit! He has no fear! His travels include exploring Mayan civilization with underground caverns teaming with bats and human skeletons, tracing the route of Amelia Earhart, and finding a lost Inca city in Peru.

Attendees were offered the opportunity to pose a question to him at the microphone in the audience. I stepped up to the mike and asked him how does he prepare emotionally and physically for his dangerous adventures? He stated that he just “does it”! He does not spend time worrying. In his opinion, the only thing that can be a roadblock or needs attention prior to travels, are the trip logistics and contact persons.


Josh encouraged attendees to be fearless in their travels. He presented a list of exciting adventures that travelers can experience during their holidays. He seems like a really cool guy that could relate well to his audience and express his passion for adventure travel.

The final speaker of the day was the well-respected, long time, PBS travel host Rick Steves!

It was a packed house for his presentation!

Mr. Steves spoke of his “off the beaten path” travels. Rick encourages his audience to visit the spots where locals spend time, to really get to know the local “heart” of that destination. He also stressed how important it is to meet the locals because the “people” are what defines a travel destination.


He was not allocated time to take photos with his fans. However, he kindly mentioned to attendees that we could stand around him in a circle, and he would make his way around and give each of us his autograph! He was friendly and greeted me with “hello”, as I awaited his signature.

The amazing DC Travel&Adventure Show had come to a close for the day at 5pm. It was time for me to head back to Boston, but not before I had an evening meal.

The Union Station train and bus depot houses several restaurants on its premises. A couple of the dining establishments display vegan options on their menu! This is perfect when one is visiting the city for a one day conference with time constraints,

The ShopHouse Kitchen Restaurant (ShopHouse Kitchen Restaurant) offers a “Vegan Bowl”.

The entree contains brown rice, organic tofu, seasonal vegetables(collard greens), peanut sauce, pickled vegetables, herb salad, and crispy garlic. The inexpensive meal was really flavorful and delicious!

My beverage was a really tasty coconut juice.

My day was absolutely amazing! I truly enjoyed the DC Travel&Adventure Show, meeting the travel hosts and listening to their presentations, and feasting on the terrific vegan meal options near the DC bus station! It was quite a memorable day that lingered in my happy thoughts as I boarded the 6:50pm overnight bus back to Boston.

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Vegan Travel – Ice Castles, Chocolate Festival, Skiing & Snowshoeing, and Vegan Dining in The White Mountains of New Hampshire

It had come to my attention recently that a veritable winter wonderland of ice castles had been created in Lincoln, New Hampshire. The fairytale-like spot is nestled among the towns of the White Mountains region. The Ice Castles concept was designed by a gentleman named Brent. He had created an ice rink, complete with ice slide and ice castle in his backyard to entertain his family. The rest is history, as the Ice Castles attraction is now enjoyed by all in four states: New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, and Utah. The Ice Castles are built by hand. Each location grows more than 5,000 icicles each day that are harvested and sculpted together.

My reasons for visiting the area were twofold: 1. I wanted to experience this magical “Ice Castles” attraction(Ice Castles) and 2. The following day I would head thirty two miles east, to the town of North Conway for their annual “Mount Washington Valley Chocolate Festival”(Mount Washington Valley Chocolate Festival) complete with skiing and snowshoeing activities!

Hence I went forth on my two hour journey to spend this past weekend at these two unique and memorable events in the White Mountain region.

Upon reaching the town of Lincoln, it was time to grab some lunch. As every seasoned vegan traveler should do, I did some pre-trip research to locate vegan-friendly dining. Since none of the vegan websites mention any restaurant in this town, I did a general search of restaurants in town, then went to each of their websites to determine if their menu included any vegan possibilities. Fortunately, I was able to uncover a couple of restaurants that do indeed offer a few vegan options. For my lunchtime meal on my first day in town, I thus headed to Gypsy Cafe (Gypsy Cafe). This “hidden jewel” offers a vegan option or two on their menu.

My entree selection was the Cashew Long Bean Stir Fry with tofu, served over jasmine rice. The Chinese green beans were tossed in a zesty sesame sauce. The meal was fabulous!

Since check-in time at my accommodations had arrived, I went directly to the motel after lunch. The Riverview Motel and Cabins in Lincoln, New Hampshire offer very reasonably-priced stays during high season in the mountains. Though a motel by name, they were actually furnished cabins with heat included. I was really pleased with the clean and nice accommodations.

After unpacking and resting up a bit from my lengthy drive, I went back into town for dinner. Another “hidden gem” found by my research was the “Common Man” restaurant (Common Man Restaurant ). This spacious restaurant provides upstairs dining in an elegant atmosphere. A cozy hearth setting downstairs provides tired travelers a place to unwind and the glow of a fireplace to stay warm while enjoying each other’s company. The extensive menu offers gourmet quality meals.

I started off by ordering a cup of hot ginger lemongrass tea on this cold and snowy evening.

For my dinner entree, I selected the “Farmer’s Harvest”. This dish consisted of roasted butternut squash, beets, portabello mushrooms, and braised spinach with a chickpea ragout and gingered basmati rice. Boy was I happy to find this place! The meal was delicious! Such a flavorful variety of vegetables, beans, and grains! This is another restaurant and meal that I highly recommend for vegan travelers to the region.

For dessert, I was offered a bowl of fresh sliced strawberries. It complemented my savory meal nicely.

Finally the time had arrived for my scheduled 7:30pm visit to the Ice Castles! The castles may be visited during daylight hours. However, night time visits are best, as that is the time when they may be seen in all their glory, illuminated in ever-changing colors every few minutes! It was snowing when I arrived, which only enhanced the beauty of the wintry landscape.

Visitors are greeted by a heart-shaped cave entrance. Through its snowy tunneled passageway, one can see the ever-changing color displays as they illuminate the icy structures on the other side!

Upon exiting the entrance tunnel, I looked up in awe at the monumental and vivid ice formations before me! Perched upon a hill, was a magnificent ice castle. First I was first struck by the purple hued “crown” on the ground, formed entirely by ice and icicles. One moment the structure would be illuminated in green. A few minutes later, the hue would change until it shone a deep blue, then red, then pink color, then back to purple again. This color-changing extravaganza set the tone for the exciting evening visit!

Massive Ice Castles stood proudly in our sight. This was truly a vision that reminds one of the movie “Frozen”! Icicles of varying lengths and shapes graced the surface of each castle. The jagged edges of the ice produced that fairy-tale look and feel of its exterior.

One of the castle interiors housed a colossal ‘beanstalk’ made of ice. One moment it was a striking green. The next minute, it would become a vibrant aqua, then settling on a purple-ish pink shade for a while. The intricately detailed icicle ceilings of the caves reminded me of fancy glass chandeliers.

Visitors, including myself, enjoyed walking through the narrow passageways and cave entrances, while gazing in wonderment at the changing colors on the icy surfaces.

As I strolled through one particular walkway, I was admiring the variety of hues and brilliant colors of each icy formation. One shone a striking aqua shade, another a rich red, and yet a third shone a vibrant green.

The next ice castle in the panoramic view was a large icy cave illuminated in a pretty purple tone. We wandered through to glance at its interior and to see what icy configurations we would experience once we reached the other side!

The next formation was a elongated dragon made entirely of ice. From its spiky scales to its curvy spine, this ice creature was quite impressive! He was illuminated in an aqua blueish hue. It was absolutely stunning!

A lofty ice tower stood across from the dragon.

My time at the Ice Castles had come to an end. It was truly a memorable experience, worth every minute of the journey to get there! My cabin was warm and cozy for a good night’s sleep. The snow was still falling and blanketed the landscape with shimmery fluffy flakes, as I dozed off for the night.

The next morning, I arose bright and early. An hour’s drive was ahead of me. Though the distance from Lincoln to North Conway is a mere thirty two miles, the drive would take me through the White Mountain National Forest on long and very windy roads over cliffs and ridges.The time estimate during decent weather conditions is approximately one hour. First priority was getting my morning meal. My breakfast was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich served on toasted Ezekiel bread at the Purple Tomato Market (Purple Tomato Market). It was a filling breakfast and quite tasty! The peanut butter and jam were made locally. The cafe staff graciously offer to customize vegan-friendly sandwiches or salads.

I also purchased a vegan oatmeal raisin cookie as a snack for my drive home later that day. The market sell several vegan snack items.

Further up the road, I stopped by the Half Baked And Fully Brewed Cafe(Half Baked And Fully Brewed Cafe) for a smoothie. My “Brain Booster” smoothie was made with raspberries, strawberries, bananas, ginko biloba, and soy milk. I enjoyed the refreshing fruity beverage to start off what would become my very active day! Their deli and lunch menu include a few vegan choices such as a quinoa salad and rice salad.

An hour and a half later, through winding snow covered roads in the forest, I reached my destination of North Conway, New Hampshire. The popular Mount Washington Valley Chocolate Festival is an annual fundraiser event that includes a day of cross country skiing and snowshoeing at ten trails in the North Conway region, with several trail stops offering chocolate desserts. The chocolate, the skiing & snowshoeing at any of their trails, and the shuttle bus transportation between stops were all included in the $30 festival ticket cost.

As any vegan should do, I contacted the office running the event, as well as the individual restaurants listed on the event schedule, to find out if any would offer vegan chocolates. The Local Grocer Cafe(The Local Grocer Cafe) was the only participating vendor offering a vegan chocolate. One is better than none, so I felt good about this one option! My number#1 priority was to stop by the Mount Washington Touring Center to pick up the ticket I had purchased online. Afterwards, I stopped by the Local Grocer Cafe to pick up my chocolate. The vegan chocolate was a dark chocolate with a cherry filling. I really enjoyed the flavorful cherry and yummy chocolate treat!

Then off I went to do some snowshoeing on the trails behind the The Local Grocer! These trails brought me through snowy woods, by sparkling streams, and onto some open fields with a backdrop of majestic mountain ranges.




Shalimar Of India (Shalimar Of India Restaurant) was the restaurant where I dined for lunch. The restaurant is very vegan-friendly. Many items are already vegan. Others that are not, can be made vegan by request. I started with a roti bread.

My entree was the vegetable navratana korma. Instead of a dairy based broth, they were able to substitute a curry base for me. The mixed veggies included potatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, squash, and broccoli. It was accompanied by a side of rice. What a lovely meal! The dish was filling and very flavorful! For a truly authentic and delicious vegan meal in North Conway, be sure to include this restaurant on your agenda!

After lunch, I set forth on my next adventure. The trails behind the Ragged Mountain Equipment Center, at The Mount Washington Touring Center were where I spent the remainder of the afternoon doing some cross country skiing.

I skied my way through the forest trails. Fresh air, invigorating exercise, and spectacular vistas made this a rewarding trek!



When my time at the festival had completed, there were two more stops I wanted to make in town. Several colorful and picturesque shops reside in North Conway Center. I strolled through the center to pop into a couple of shops for browsing. Ski gear shops, gift shops, and an old time general store lined the touristy road.

Along the White Mountain Highway, another popular tourist stop is the Adventure Suites Hotel. This theme hotel is one of the top ten theme hotels in the word. The exterior has several facades representing the Old West, including a bank, a saloon, a chapel, and other significant buildings. Its interior rooms run the gamut from psychedelic 1970’s decor to a jungle theme or a romantic Rome theme. As a stop for skiing on its outdoor trails during the day’s festival, the hotel was also open for self-guided tours to ticket holders. The intriguing look of this place captured my curiosity, so I did indeed embark on a tour here myself.

I had quite an amazing weekend in the White Mountains! The spectacular Ice Castles, superb xc skiing and snowshoeing, and the excellent vegan dining and chocolate made this a wonderful winter weekend getaway! I encourage all vegan travelers to partake in next year’s chocolate festival and to find some time during this winter season to enjoy the Ice Castles and skiing in the region.

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