A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: kvandervegan

The Final Day

sunny 21 °C

Waking up this morning we packed our bags and checked out of our Air BNB, leaving them in a locked room so we could enjoy the time we had left in the city. My bag was STUFFED and hardly shut - I did a LOT of shopping. Really grateful that Josh took a bunch of stuff home for me to make room for all of my purchases!

We headed out on the metro and went towards a vegan breakfast spot. Once we finally found it, it was all chained up and closed!! Boo. They must have moved locations as it's a popular spot with many locations, so it's not like they're out of business. With some free street wifi and my trust Happy Cow vegan app we found the next best thing, Peacefood Cafe, which was very close and had awesome reviews. We were not disappointed! They're desert case alone was enough to make us quickly find a seat.

We ordered the tofu scramble and the vegan quiche and tried each other's. So good.

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We also ordered two deserts to split... it was our last day, no judging!! Tiramisu and strawberry shortcake, yum. I also maaaay have purchased some take away for the plane...

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Next we walked up to Gramercy Park, one of the few Jere hadn't seen yet, and we were surprised to see it was the park in NY that you need a key to enter! It's for the neighbourhood residents and it was noticeable; the park was perfectly manicured and maintained. And no wonder - they have a long list of rules! No sunbathing, no cameras, no pets. No fun it sounds like!

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On our way towards the Empire State Building we walked past a palm reader with a nice storefront advertising $5 reads. Why not right?! It was our last few hours in the city and we had cash on hand. We both opted for a $10 read to get a little more in depth, and while it was short, or our read was totally worth it! I would say I'm a half believer half sceptic when it comes to these things, but I totally see the fun in it either way. I won't share all of my read, but she tapped into some pretty personal stuff, and while she was generic, she couldn't have just said that to anybody. Jere said the same! We also thought it was funny that she knew that Jere was single, I wasn't, and a few other details. Totally worth the $10!

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We had another hour to kill and one of the thrift shops I loved from Brooklyn has a second location in the city so we walked over to that. After 10 minutes of browsing I had over 15 items to try on!! Oops. I definitely didn't have room in my already stuffed backpack. I narrowed it down to 4 pieces I really liked, and with that our time in New York came to an end! We got the metro back to our Air BNB, changed into travel clothes and took the two subways out to JFK.

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I'm sitting on the plane catching up on my blog and am really overwhelmed with gratitude that I was able to embark on this epic adventure. It seems like half a year ago Josh and I touched down in that Ethiopian airport, waiting for our connection to the Kenyan coast. I'm so grateful to have such a supportive husband who let me lead our trip and do all of the things I wanted to. I do have regrets around our time spent in Egypt; I just wished we stuck to our plans and research and did our own touring around. I'm still incredibly grateful we went and totally thrilled we got to do what we did there! Overall our trip was just amazing and my time in New York with friends was such a great way to end my five plus weeks away.

I'm totally not ready to come back to reality. But I am ready for my hundred pound dog to spoon me tonight, to have access to my full wardrobe, and to be back in my own home. I have a whole new sense of balance in terms of the way we live in Canada and I'm incredibly grateful for the many, many resources and basic necessities we have access to.

Starting in Kenya was such a shock to the system, and going from third world countries to the Big Apple was a weird way of doing things, but it did make me more aware of the lottery we win when we're born in a place like Canada! It's a strange balance to spoil yourself with food and new clothes (when I have a full closet at home) when we started in a place where some people have a single ripped t-shirt and no shoes to wear, and they struggle to make enough to buy their rice and oil for the week. Writing it down makes me feel guilty, but it also makes me appreciate the things I have in this life, and maybe I'll enjoy them a little more now.

I feel a bit like I'm rambling, but I just wanted to get down how I feel as I travel back home. I think I'll leave it at this and maybe write a bit more of an overview once I'm back and settled.

Posted by kvandervegan 21:40 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Live! Central Park and the Plaza

sunny 17 °C

We had to be up at quarter to 6 am Monday morning as Jere was on the ball and got us tickets to a taping of Live with Kelly & (now) Ryan Seacrest! I was so excited when he told me he got them, and even more excited that the star of scandal Tony Goldwyn was appearing! We got the metro and headed towards Central Park to the studio. We were told to dress like we would for a fancy dinner, so I wore a floral skirt, black top and my dressiest sandals. Keep in mind I'm coming off of a month backpacking! And blisters we're still raw from my new heels so that wasn't happening.

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On our walk towards the studio I hit a manhole cover just right and ripped the toe piece clean out of my sandal!! My first thought was, oh my goodness is Kelly going to let me in?! It was a clean break and the shoe was totally unwearable. I took it off and walked barefoot for the second time in New York; it was a lot harder to bear totally sober!

Luckily we weren't that far from the studio, and I put my shoe on when we saw the line and just slid my one foot along the pavement as the line moved. It was a little embarrassing! The one security guard noticed and asked if I was ok, I explained what happened and he was so sweet and tried to help out with some advice. And I thought they wouldn't let me in! Next thing I know this woman from the lineup is foraging in her purse for something to fix my shoe. She had some dental floss, which she tied around the sole and wrapped around the broken piece. The security guard brought us some tape and bam! I've got a shoe that at least allowed me to briefly lift it off the ground. Century 21, kind of an American sears, was around the corner, and my shoe fix lasted until right after the show when we walked over there to look for shoes. It was a team effort!

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Anyways, after the shoe fix we stood in the line for close to an hour and a half. We had security and the merchant sales guy brief us a bit, but other than that we were just waiting. They filed us into the lobby and studio at 8:40! We thought that was quite rushed for a 9:00 live show, but the merchant guy assured us with over 20 years in the biz, the show knows how to get it done.

I was totally overwhelmed with how the studio was laid out, it's not at all how I pictured it from watching! Gelmann came out and with only 6 minutes to go (!!) they asked the audience for volunteers to audition to be the crazy dancer for while they do the spin-the-wheel trivia. Efficiently the dancers did their thing, we voted, and a lady from Vegas was picked to be the dancer! She was whisked away to be prepped for her part in the show. We got a crash course from Gelmann on when and how to clap and what to do if our number was picked for the $500 prize they give away each show. Then with hardly any warning at all the show got started! The beginning credits rolled and out come Kelly and Ryan!! I got a great video, I'll see if I can post it on here once I get some good wifi.

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The two of them seemed like old friends who sat and chatted and we all just watched in awe. I was surprised how close the staff gets to them while they're on air. Someone's phone went off from the audience and nobody really cared! They really have a way of drowning us out. This show was live! It was really, really cool to watch. The first segment seemed to go on forever, they spun the wheel and did the trivia and then finally they went to commercial.

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During the break it was a seamless set change. Kelly and Ryan got their hair and makeup touch ups and Gelmann directed and Kelly totally entertained the crowd. Ryan not so much at that point. Jere and I were totally in awe! Kelly chats and engages with the audience even while they're counting down from 10 seconds! You can really tell she's done it forever.

Sitting on their chairs they came back from commercial and invited out Tony Goldwyn! I was totally star struck. They chatted with him and what felt like a minute later they went to commercial! As soon as the break happens the three stars started to chat like old friends, and it almost felt like the audience wasn't even there! Finally Kelly came over and chatted to the audience while Ryan and Tony continued their conversation. Once again the countdown from commercial and Kelly hops up on her seat with a few seconds to spare.

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We said goodbye to Tony and went to another commercial where Kelly and Ryan get touched up again. Like, they hardly do anything and yet Kelly needs more makeup?! Next they invited out Derek Hough! Which I thought was funny since Ryan used to date his sister. Derek's suit was obviously too tight and they chatted about it, it was quite funny seeing him struggle a bit to sit down in it.

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Derek's time was super quick! He came and went in one of the takes. After that Kelly and Ryan did some more chatting to the audience between being on air. It was funny, Kelly was talking about how much she loves Ryan's American Idol voice and his one liners, so he did a few like, "Dim the lights, and here we go!" And "We'll find out the results.... after the break!" It was so crazy to see in real life haha! Total fan girl moment.

They had this weird family dance off which was a little boring, but before we knew it we were at the end of the hour!! It was SUCH a cool experience. After it was over Kelly and Ryan had some promos to shoot, so Ryan joked we would all get to see their acting chops. This director guy comes out and directs them quickly, they shoot a line or two over a few seconds, and move on to the next one! It was so fast and they did one take and that was it! Even did a quick one where Kelly makes an action and Ryan falls over. Just one quick take and that's it! And they were explaining that it's this director guy's job to write these and he puts in so much effort and it takes them two seconds to shoot haha. So fun!

With that our time in the studio ended and we filed out to head to Century 21 for some new shoes. I hate forced shopping, but I found a cute pair of sandals at a good price, plus I found a cute summer dress. Overall we had an awesome morning and we headed back on the metro to have our pizza brunch in our Air BNB and get changed out of our fancy clothes.

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Update: I had my mom watch the show for us, and Jere and I TOTALLY made it on TV when they pan the audience after the trivia!!! We got our five seconds of fame :)

After stuffing ourselves with the rest of our delicious pizza and having a bit of a rest from our early wake up, we headed out for the day towards Central Park where we rented bikes to ride around the park. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we got to see the whole park in almost two hours! It was perfect, we both really enjoyed it.

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We the walked around the Upper East Side, one of the sections of Manhattan we hadn't covered yet. The apartments were so fancy, we both would have killed to do an inside tour of them! We found a realtors site afterwards and looked at some of the listings. They ranged from 12-36 million, but they also ranged from like 5,000-12,000 square feet and had like, 6 bed 8 bath or in one case, 12 bed 12 bath! So I feel like the prices were close to Vancouver since these places were so grand?

We hit up Zara on the way home and Jere and I both got some really good finds. The shopping here has been incredible - so many good deals, even with the exchange. I've totally spoiled myself, especially since this was the last leg of my trip!

Next we took the metro back home to change once again. We wanted to go to a fancy vegan place for dinner, but by the time we got home and freshened up it was almost 9, and the place closed at 10! Oops, bad planing on our part. One of Jere's must-do's was having champagne in the plaza, so at that hour we had to get a quick dinner so we could make it in time. Not much was open that late that we could find in that area (again, are we in New York or what?) so we decided on the Whole Foods buffet, which definitely hit the spot.

We walked from Whole Foods to the plaza and, while we felt a little out of place not being dressed in a tux and gown, we were kindly greeted by a waiter and sat down at a table by the window. We decided to split a bottle of the plaza's cheapest champagne and toast to our last night in the city! We reminisced about our favourite and least favourite parts. Mine was breaking my phone and then being soooo hungover, but Jere didn't really have a least favourite. Our trip was pretty phenomenal! In large part to having Jaime as our local tour guide. We wouldn't have covered the ground that we did on my day 2 without her there! Took a stroll through Times Square to finish off the night, since I didn't really remember it from our night out Saturday.

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Off to bed and I was really sad that my final full day of traveling had come to an end. I miss my Max more than anything, but I'm still not ready to face reality! I feel like I could go a another whole month away. But all good things must come to an end, and this trip has been really, really great. Plus we still had a half day in the city to enjoy, so I wasn't going to let myself be too sad yet!

Posted by kvandervegan 21:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Brooklyn, Night Out and Following Day - 3 & 4 NYC

rain 10 °C

We woke up day 3 to a total downpour, which is not good when you're walking 13 km a day! We layered up and hit the pavement. We decided to start with a bagel at a place in Brooklyn Jaime recommended which also had vegan cream cheese. Amazing again! Bagels don't have calories, right?

Next we got Jaime a fresh gingery juice as she had one extra glass of wine last night ;) we then walked to some cute shops in Williamsburg, both new and thrift. The thrift stores here are nothing like home! They are awesome and I could have stayed in one in particular for hours. I got 4 things there :) Jaime found some super cute shoes on a crazy good sale. Overall a great day for shopping, minus the nasty weather.

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Walking through the streets of Brooklyn we were getting absolutely soaked from the rain! We were starting to get a little grumpy from it, or at least I was, so we decided to hit up a German-style craft beer hall which promised to be warm and dry. It did not disappoint! The beer was good, Jaime got a massive pretzel, and we enjoyed the company of a couple in New York on business from Arizona.

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After the beer we shopped some more, then went to find dinner at an all vegan hot dog cart, which happened to be stopped at a vegan pop up shop that day! Had I known that we probably would have gone earlier as the hot dogs were already gone :( we sampled some local vegan meats which were really, really good! I got a vegan macaroon and some caramels to take home, and we browsed the many other vegan stalls there.

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We had to find somewhere else for dinner so we decided to hit up another shop on my list and get a doughnut from an all vegan shop also in Brooklyn. I may have had two...

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At this point we parted ways and Jere and I headed homewards to dry off from our crazy rainy day! We stopped by Chipotle for a proper dinner and enjoyed the warmth of the restaurant for a few minutes. After that we got back into the pouring rain and saw Grand Central Station on the way home.

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Back on the metro and out to Queens to have a rest as we planned on going out that night. We made it home by quarter to eight and we both napped for a few hours. I think I got up and started getting ready around 10:30, had some pre-drinks and planned our evening on the floor of our tiny Air BNB. By the time we left it was just after midnight! This girl hasn't done that in a while.

We headed downtown and found the club we wanted to go to. Luckily there was no line and no cover, but inside the place was PACKED! And the music was amazing, a really good mix from 80's until now. It was a gay club with, I would guess, 90% men, and Jaime and I got to dance freely with no worries! It was shaping up to be a really fun night.

One of my former colleagues from TD in Vancouver, Kenny, happened to see my snapchat and messaged me saying he was also in New York for a wedding! We had planned to meet at the club as well, and when he got there he promptly bought me a drink and we caught up as it's been a while since we've seen each other last. Lots to talk about! One thing led to another and the next thing I know were doing a double tequila shot... oops.

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Lots of dancing and chatting later, the room was beginning to spin a bit! I'd also had 4 different types of alcohol at that point so we were ready to get going and find some late night food. I was wearing my new heels bought earlier that day and I had some good blisters from all the dancing and walking. Once we got outside I took turns walking and getting piggy backs! We'd picked up a walking partner from outside the club, Daylin, who was from Edmonton. What does he do? He works for TD as well! What a small world. We had lots to chat about as we hunted for food.

We tried a couple of places with no luck at all. Some of the guys got burgers while I sat and watched them eat as there was no vegan food at that spot. I assumed the big city would have falafel carts or French fries or something on the street but we couldn't find anything! It being after 4am might have had something to do with it. We found a Burger King on google maps and wanted to head there (vegan onion rings)... but they were closed!! We are in New York, right? We then talked about going to McDonalds but Daylin also used to be a vegan (?!) and he reminded us that the American McDonald's fries aren't vegan! How could I forget.

In all of our searching my feet were KILLING me. Kenny picked me up again for another piggy back, but all that tequila hit us hard and he fell flat on his face with me on his back. I'm lucky I didn't knock my teeth out! Actually we're both pretty lucky. But I did smash my iPhone on the streets of New York, so now I have a partly shattered screen. The WORST. I was pretty mad at myself but happy still as it could have been much worse! With that my heels came off and I walked barefoot in the streets of Time Square.

With all of the events of the evening behind us, no food in sight, and it was starting to get light out so we decided we'd better just head home. We said goodbye to our friends and hit the subway, myself still barefoot. We were home just after 6 and after a quick foot bath and some Chex mix we went straight to bed!

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We got about 6 hours of sleep but about 4 too few for me. I woke up on the top bunk with the room spinning around me and I knew this would not be a great day! Checked the time and, oh right, I smashed my screen. Ugh! We slowly got ready and decided to hit the metro to make the most of the day. Jere was tired but feeling much much better than me!

Our first stop was food as we were both starving from the night before. We got to our favourite bagel shop and ate it on the stoop of a random brownstone. I was needing solid ground and a seat at that point! Jere was such a trooper in putting up with me :)

Next we walked through Rockefeller centre and were making our way down and towards the Statue of Liberty. We saw St. Patrick's Cathedral, and got near Wall Street and the bull statue.

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I was feeling slightly better at that point and so we walked through a street market where Jere and I both found awesome sunglasses at $5 each! Score. Jere got some street corn to much on too. Suddenly we were checking out old New Yorker magazine prints, a flash rain storm hit! It went from sunny and blue sky to torrential downpour and wind in a few seconds. The market stalls battened down the hatches and invited us under shelter for about ten minutes until it cleared and went back to blue skies again!

We kept walking to the bottommost point of Manhattan to get as close as we were going to to the Statue of Liberty. Got some shots and headed back to the metro!

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On the way through the little park this squirrel crossed our path. No biggie. Except it was very interested in us and we figured it was looking for food. I put my hand out (natural reaction) and. The squirrel was getting really close' closer and closer, it all of a sudden skittered off of the bench he was on, across the ground and UP my leg!!! I screamed! I totally didn't expect that. Jere wishes he got it on video!! When he realized I had no food he climbed back down and carried on. So funny!!

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We took the metro back to the Chelsea market since we wanted another look at the stores there and there were a few options for a quick lunch, even though it was getting close to 6! We decided on a second round (different location) of the all vegan sushi place called Beyond Sushi. It was even better than the first! I have got to learn to copy these rice paper wraps. Delicious.

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We had left our first day of shopping at Arash's apartment in Brooklyn since we went from his rooftop to the cute little bar and then in an uber home. We were running out of time to pick it up, so we decided to metro out to Brooklyn and meet him. It worked out well as we were thinking of having the pizza we had on Friday night again and they didn't deliver to our Air BNB. So we decided to walk from Arash's and pick it up, then uber home. All the transit took a bit of time and after a quick visit with Arash we had our pizza and we're on route home to enjoy! It was SO GOOD, even better than the first time around, and we saved a bunch for our lunch the next morning.

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Overall a great few days in the city, and even with a killer hangover we managed to see quite a few areas of the city that we wanted to! My iPhone health app was off the charts and said that we walked 21.8 km that day, which I'm assuming includes all the food foraging from after the club. I just don't think that's possible, and Jere and I decided the dancing must have had some impact there.

We we're both really excited to sleep and get a good rest before an early rise Monday. Full from our delicious pizza we slept like babies.

Posted by kvandervegan 20:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York Day 2

overcast 15 °C

Day 2 started at 3:45 am local time, or 9:45 am Israel time. I was wide awake so I decided to watch the rest of The People VS O.J. Simpson, which I had started on the plane. I watched the last 4 episodes, taking me to about 7:30, and then I went back to sleep for an hour or so. That time difference is real!

Getting our day started with some great American style coffee, something I'd missed travelling abroad. We made our way just a few subway stops to a very popular bagel place that had 7 kinds of vegan cream cheese! Jere and I split ours again (perks of travelling with an almost-vegan) so we tried the herb and the scallion cream cheese. The bagels were HUGE (that's America for you!) and they were so freaking good. I think from our first bite we decided that wouldn't be our only bagel this trip!

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Next we took the subway to Chelsea market where we met with Jaime who took us through to the Artists and Flea section. It was an awesome store filled with good, homemade, local stuff! Jere got quite a few good finds :) I almost bought this hat! But didn't since I just don't wear hats, ever.

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We continued shopping and then walked to the high line, one of Jaime's favourite things to do in the city. It's an old train line that was remade into a walking path. It was green and full of flowers and had some great views!

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Next we had lunch at Beyond Sushi, an all vegan sushi restaurant I've always wanted to try. Their mushroom rolls and dumplings were so good! We all really enjoyed our meals, even though the experience was a bit jumbled as that location had just opened. In the staffs confusion we got a second order of dumplings, which we ate without asking questions :)

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We walked and walked and continued to see the iconic New York buildings and landmarks.

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We also shopped at the stores we'd come across, including a ton of thrift stores! We had some amazing finds. Jaime and I both got several items at a pop up sample sale where the clothes ranged from $5-$20. So good! Really cute stuff. My backpack is definitely coming home more full than when I arrived!

Next we stopped by an all vegan bakery where I got a doughnut and a cheese and raspberry pastry. Yum! Another tick off the food list.

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We stopped by a Trader Joe's wine shop to get the $2.99 house brand of wine to enjoy at Jaime's boyfriends apartment in Brooklyn. It ended up being amazing wine, I was SO impressed! People had really full carts and now I see why! It was actually insane, the lineup to pay essentially starts at the entrance of the store and wraps around the back of the store and back up to the tills. So if you're alone you basically have to shop while in line. Jaime says if she's with people one person shops and one person waits in line as soon as you get to the store. Crazy!

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With all that walking I decided to check out my phone to see how much we'd actually walked. I was shocked to see it was 13.9 km! And over 19,000 steps! And in the last month with my travels my daily average has been 16,000 steps and 11.9 km. Crazy! Much different than when I'm at home working!

With that we met up with Jaime's boyfriend Arash and took the metro out to Brooklyn. We busted out the wine and popped champagne on the roof of his apartment. The view was incredible! It was freezing, so we huddled under the blankets and watched the lights come on in the big city.

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For dinner we decided to order delivery, and it just so happened that this fairly new all vegan pizza shop just opened in Brooklyn! We ordered 3 kinds to share between the 4 of us, and they were all to die for. Jaime's boyfriend Arash, not a vegan, said it was the best pizza he's ever had. It was so good I think Jere and I both dreamed about it that night!

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We decided to head out to a little bar close by, super cute little open air place where we had some more wine and danced! One very drunk lady kept joining our group, it was funny to watch her. Then later the bar staff asked if we were with her, we said no, but she must have either passed out or gotten into some trouble! I was fading fast thanks to my 4 am wake up, so Jere and I got an uber home and promptly passed out. What a perfect, food filled New York day!

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Posted by kvandervegan 10:12 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Welcome to NYC

sunny 16 °C

My trip to NYC was fairly uneventful. The airline got my email in time and had vegan meals prepared for me, even still I was pretty hungry most flight and totally forgot to pack snacks. What kind of unprepared vegan am I?! I watched 6 episodes of The People VS OJ Simpson (highly recommend!) and was sad I didn't download more for the trip as the airline didn't have tvs for the 10 hour trip, just a small old one in the centre aisle. In he end my 20 hour travel day to NYC was not so bad.

Josh on the other hand had his long flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver delayed by 3 hours, meaning he would miss his connection to Victoria. After the airline saying since it was their fault they would pay for him to change his flight around we both felt relieved. But once in Canada he had no such luck with Condor, so we'll be pursuing that more when I get home! Luckily the Air Canada staff were helpful and didn't charge us as much as normal to rebook a new flight home.

Once I landed in NYC I was a bit nervous for customs, but I just breezed right through with hardly any questions. Next I navigated the subway system to get myself to the Air BNB with no trouble at all. First thing I noticed getting into the states was the sweet NYC accent! So good. And the second thing I noticed was the size of the people. Just coming from Tel Aviv, a city where it is so cool to workout and be in top shape, and then before that Africa, I realized we hadn't seen too many large people. And now in the states it was shocking to see the size of some people! A month away can really open your eyes haha. It was also weird to be around so much English! But riding the subway I heard so many different languages since it's so diverse here.

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Before I knew it I was at my new shared home with one of my best friends Jeremy! It's a closet with twin sized bunk beds, but it will totally do the trick for us while in the big city.

I felt totally ready to hit the pavement so I changed and we headed out to meet with another friend Jaime for drinks and dinner, I was pretty starving at that point. Jaime is doing her masters at Columbia, graduating in a few short days! I'm happy I got to visit her while she's hear and she's been awesome at showing us all the good stuff so far :)

We got off the subway from Queens, where we're staying, to Greenwhich village where we were meeting Jaime at the iconic corner where the friends building was filmed. Welcome to NYC! So nostalgic :)

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Next we walked a short distance to see Carrie Bradshaw's apartment.

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And finally we got some dinner at by CHLOE, one of the top vegan restaurants on my list! I have been following her for years and was so thrilled to eat her food. Jere and I decided to split two things since we were both having a hard time deciding, so we got the guac burger and the meatball sub to split, plus we both got a small side of the mac and cheese with shiitake bacon. It was all UNREAL and was such a good welcome to the city!!

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We had got the food to go to eat in Washington Square Park, which I immediately recognized from movies over the years. Lots of people playing chess at the tables, pretty intense games as well!

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Next we stopped at a little cafe for a bottle of wine to share. The wine was fantastic, it's been a while since I'd had good quality wine! The people watching was great, everyone had their pint sized little dogs with them out for a walk. And the al fresco spot we were at was perfect, but MAN is it cold here! Coming from round he clock 30 degree weather to 16 feels like coming to 5 degrees with the wind chill! I'm sad to be out of the heat, it's definitely more my style!

Jaime had to head out early for a meeting, so Jere and I finished our wine and headed out to subway an walk towards the World Trade Center monument. It was stunning to see.

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We also saw the Oculus - what a crazy looking building!

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And then we walked and walked and got to the Brooklyn Bridge!

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With that we decided to get a bottle of wine and head home for the night. I was at the 28 hour point of traveling, and I was fading fast. We got home too tired to even open the bottle!

Overall my first afternoon in NYC was a great one! I'm glad I was able to rally and make the most of the evening.

Posted by kvandervegan 06:20 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Goodbye Israel

sunny 19 °C

Our last day together was spent in Tel Aviv. We couldn't check in to our hotel early, so we found a place for lunch (TONS of vegan options here, it's so hard to choose!) and then we walked to the market to pick up a couple of last souvenirs before we leave. Then we were able to check in, change and hit the beach! I got in two hours of 30 degree sun to work on the tan while Josh worked on his second book of the trip. I dipped a couple of times in the Mediterranean and then we headed back to the hotel to reorganize.

Later on we had drinks by the sea, watched the sunset and we reminisced about our trip. We talked about how it feels like ages since we'd been in Kenya; we've done so much since then! Overall our trip went incredibly well - Egypt was a little rocky, but we still got to do most of the things we wanted there including seeing the pyramids up close. Israel had the most amazing food, but was by far the most expensive. We both agreed our highlight was river rafting the Nile and getting to know all of the Ugandan guys on board. But we both miss Kenya so much. I really could live there!

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We're up bright and early for our travel days, Josh to Victoria and me to New York. We were both stopped and put through extra screening in the airport, something I've read is quite common for Israel. We were separated to check in on different floors, but we met right back up at the additional screening! Perfect timing.

I got coffee and we sat together for a few minutes, now currently Josh is taking off and I'm waiting at my gate. I'm so sad to be parting ways but I'm excited for all New York has to offer! My partner in crime for the week is already there and having a blast.

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It was hard to choose only 9 selfies, but here's a little recap of our trip in photos :)

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Posted by kvandervegan 18:41 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea

sunny 29 °C

We decided to rent a car to visit the Dead Sea instead of joining an organized tour, partly because the cost of the tour was really high and didn't include some entrance fees, and partly because we couldn't find one running on the day we wanted to go. Plus the roads and highways here are all marked with English (alongside Hebrew and Arabic) and they're nicer and more well maintained than ours at home! We went to book with the company and it would have cost us $65 a day, but online through Expedia it was only $11! It worked out really well and before we knew it we had the car and were on the road.

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We drove out of Jerusalem and into the West Bank. Every government site says to avoid the West Bank at all costs and here we were driving through! Side note - every place we have been has a travel advisory, and a few of the places have the extra advisory saying to avoid all unnecessary travel. We have never once felt scared! And we feel right at home in Israel. Anyways, just had to put that out there.

Our first stop was a landmark showing you were standing at sea level. Photo op! Lots of rolling desert hills and a few tents set up for people who I assume live there? Not sure.

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We then drove along the Dead Sea for about an hour and got some awesome views of the coastline alone the way!

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We pulled in to the national reserve park of Ein Gedi. This was a part of the tour so I figured we could do it too! We entered the park after paying our fee and we walked up nice and easy to a couple of waterfalls, dipping into the shallow pools along the way to cool off from the 30+ degree weather. It was awesome! We continued to walk and found the bigger waterfall, David's Waterfall, where you couldn't swim, but we admired and carried on.

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We wanted just a short hike and were about to leave when on the map it showed you could find this Odems Cave really close by! We saw the sign and thought we would make the most of our entrance price and hike to the cave. Before we knew it were ascending Israel's version of the grouse grind in over 30 degree weather. I told Josh I was quitting a couple of times, but he didn't let me! Not working out for a whole month has clearly had an impact!

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We were treated to our first sign of water at the remains of an aqueduct. Then 10 minutes later we were treated to this fantastic pool! We got right in and chatted with a it from a Portugal who was hanging out. While Josh was in the pool his sandal got caught on the bottom and broke the toe piece! So from here on out Josh is hiking with one good shoe, one broken shoe. It slowed us down but he was such a trooper I felt so bad he had to deal with this broken shoe!

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After the pool we had more stairs and eventually a little rock climb to get down into the cave. It was really nice! We got right in again to enjoy the water.

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Our trek back was slow but much easier for me than the climb. It was harder for Josh since he had to keep that shoe on the whole time! If it were me I would have been complaining the whole time, no doubt.

Finally we reached the bottom and were happy to see a cool water fill up station, which was super refreshing as my water was "room temp" at that point, or 30 degrees. It was hot!

We drove down to a public beach which turned out to be closed, so we made our way back up to the northern part of the Dead Sea where they have another beach. You had to pay to enter, which was ok since we'd saved so much by renting the car. We walked down the beach being super careful not to touch the sand as it was the hottest sand I'd ever felt and you couldn't go barefoot. There was a sign saying the temp - 45 degrees! And we felt it.

Getting into the sea is really tricky because of the mud. We couldn't wear sandals since they stuck right in, so my worst nightmare came true and we went barefoot in the mud! Nasty. I kept justifying it to myself since there are no creatures in the Dead Sea I wouldn't be stepping on anything I didn't want to, even though the mud and rocks were already a lot to handle. We quickly figured out if we got in and floated on our backs even in just a foot of water it was easier to get out - so we did, and it was such a weird feeling! Floating without trying. Once out in the deeper water we could even sit up! It was bizarre. It felt like you were on a very stable pool noodle, but you weren't! It was a really cool feeling.

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We took turns getting muddy and taking the appropriate pics, then we got out to shower off. While inside the sea you feel silky smooth, but as soon as you get outside your skin dries kind of hard and is full of salt.

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After washing and changing we had a beer at the lowest bar in the world. Photo ops again :)

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And then we headed back to Jerusalem from there. We contemplated keeping the rental car overnight since it would have saved us some money to get to Tel Aviv, but finding parking was really tough and when we finally did find parking, I noticed we had an almost flat tire. It wasn't completely flat, but it was getting close! We decided to avoid the headache, fill up the tank, fill up the tire and return the car. We did so with no trouble and then walked back to our place.

I didn't want to miss seeing the big market here so we headed out on foot for the 15 minute walk. I'm glad we went as it's a lot different than the market in Tel Aviv. We tried some halva and I couldn't resist buying some, it was so delicious. I got the scotch flavour and I plan on enjoying it for breakfast tomorrow!

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We had a beer and people watched inside the market, then found a really good falafel place for dinner on our way home. Josh wanted desert, so we stopped again at the vegetarian cafe and he got cheesecake. Stuffed, we went back to our place where I couldn't help but fall asleep on the couch while I was blogging. We had a full day of adventure and I'm glad we saw everything we wanted to in Jerusalem!

I write this on the bus to Tel Aviv where we'll spend our last day. I'm counting down the hours we have left together before we take our separate planes tomorrow, and they are very few. I don't want it to end! Josh can't wait to get home to Max and his nice big house, but I'm not quite there yet. Of course I miss my boy more than anything, but I'm not ready to get back to reality. NYC is waiting for me! And I plan on having a great few days before I have to go back to the real world.

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Posted by kvandervegan 07:45 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

The Holy City

sunny 30 °C

Yesterday we ventured out to a cafe and treated ourselves to a massive breakfast. I mean massive! This was their "vegan breakfast", full of different condiments and side dishes, toast, potatoes, and coffee. I was stuffed after but it was all so, so tasty! Josh has been trying food he would never eat at home and he had an egg dish that he really liked and wants to learn to make now so he can have it at home. Breakfast wins.

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Next we slowly made our way down to the entrance to the old city where our tour was meeting. Our guide was Yoni, from Israel, who knew so much about each different religion and the importance of all the sites we saw. He made sure he was giving us the facts and the traditions and telling us which parts are proven to be true and which parts are so deeply traditional, even without proof, that they are essentially known to be true. I really liked how he positioned everything.

We started off at King David's Tomb, where people were waiting in a small line to see his tomb and stop to pray. We also saw the inside of the Dormition Abbey, which was a church, then the Muslims took it over so it was a mosque, then the crusaders took it back so it was a church again. This was the theme of the day! I'm no history buff but this happened, like, a lot back then. This is also the site which once held the room of the Last Supper. It's not the original building, but it's the same site, so it's now known as the room of the Last Supper.

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Next we walked through Zion Gate where we could see remnants of the last explosion where the gate was conquered, like 1000 years ago. We also saw the old walls (4000 years old) and the new walls (1000 years old). Yoni says in Israel new means 1000 years old or less!

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Being a Monday there were a TON of bar mitzvahs going on! We probably saw about 5. Lots of 13 year olds turning into men on Mondays apparently!

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Next we saw the Western wall. We saw two parts, one that doesn't segregate men and women, it was much much more quiet than the segregated part. The segregated part is the one in all the photos you see, but the first part we went is just as significant and it's where parts of Jesus's story take place, near where the currency exchange was. We got to touch the very old wall and Josh left a note, which is very common for people to do. We were literally walking in the same places that Jesus once walked.

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Next we stood in line to get in to the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock. As non-Muslims we can only enter for one hour during the day, on certain days, and if that. Sometimes the police will just close the gates! So in order to get past the security checks we got there an hour early, and while waiting we took turns entering the more popular part of the western wall as it's right next to it. As I entered and went to the right side for women only, there were tons of ladies up on a step looking over at the bar mitzvahs happening on the men's side. There were holy books all over and lots of women trying to get their spot on the wall to pray and leave a note.

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As we waited outside for the doors to open our guide Yoni talked about the history of the Temple Mount. It is the holiest place in the world for Jews; it's where they believe the world was created from, and God gathered the dust to make Adam, the worlds first humans. But many Jews don't even attempt to visit since their Rabbi may not agree with it. You have to be purified of all of your sins in order to be in the holiest place in the world, and many think they cannot do that in this life.

The Temple Mount was taken over by Muslims in 638 CE and until present day the hold the site. So you cannot go inside the buildings unless you are Muslim, and if they suspect you aren't they will test you before entering! It is the third holiest place in the world for Muslims - it's where Muhammad came and ascended into Heaven. Because the Muslims have taken it over, and because it is such a controversial place between Muslims and Jews, the Israeli government is always here to police the area. You are not allowed to pray if you are not Muslim, couples are not allowed to touch each other at all, no handholding, no nothing. If you do any of the forbidden acts you will be promptly kicked out, and our guide says he sees it happen regularly!

Inside it was really quiet and there weren't a lot of people, we saw the grounds and the main two religious buildings, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. It's a bit sad that the Jewish community can't visit inside the Dome where they believe the world was created. But if you even read through the Wikipedia page on this area you can see there's been a ton of battles and terrorism surrounding this site. I'm glad we got to see it!

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Next we left and wandered the streets of the old town while the group ate lunch. Josh and I were still stuffed from breakfast, so I just got some dried fruit to munch on. After lunch we started to walk the stations of the cross called the Via Dolorosa. It is the road that Jesus walked with the cross from the time of his arrest to his crucifixion and resurrection. We walked through the stations eventually leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place in the world for Christianity. We walked in and saw the stone where they laid Jesus to remove him from the cross. It is said to be the same stone! Lots of people were rubbing things on it to receive the holiness, some people just touched it and prayed.

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Next we went to the different rooms of the church. The church was built long after Jesus died, but in the same place that the events happened. All over the church we saw crosses etched in the stone from when the crusaders took it over in the 11th century.

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We went to a room that had a burial site from 2000 years ago. It was the burial site of Joseph of Arimathea the guy who gave Jesus the linens he needed in order to have his traditional Jewish burial. There were no tourists in there! There were people waiting in lines everywhere, but yet most people don't know that this is an actual 2000 year old burial site within the church that you can climb into!

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Around the corner from that we saw the tomb of Jesus. Lots of people were waiting in line to go in and have their moment. Apparently it had just finished being renovated in March, so we have very good timing!

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Next we went up the stairs to the spot where Jesus was crucified. Again, people were waiting in line to touch the stone where it was performed.

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And with that we finished off our holy tour! It was all so interesting, Josh and I totally felt it was worth the cost for the almost 5 hour tour covering all of the main holy sites and pointing out things we never, ever would have known. With that we walked along the old roads back outside the holy city and back to our Air BNB to get off of our feet for a bit! We had a relaxing evening with dinner and drinks and then headed to bed.

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Posted by kvandervegan 07:12 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Carmel Market

sunny 29 °C

Yesterday morning I woke up and did something I haven't done while on this trip - ventured out alone! I really wanted to wake up, get a coffee, and wander around, so I did. It sound silly now, but we weren't in areas where the pros would have outweighed the risks of doing that, for the most part. Let me also say I've felt COMPLETELY safe this whole trip! (Minus the camel experience) but Tel Aviv feels like Vancouver and we are definitely out of a third world now.

I found a cute little place with vegan muffins so I sat in the sun to enjoy my coffee. Then I decided to walk around the neighbourhood a bit, enjoying the weather and the scenery.

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Back at home we packed up and then headed out to the market, which is a stones throw from our Air BNB, we could not be in a better location. We wandered through the fruit, candy, falafel stands, clothes and jewelry. It was so much fun! It was a little crowded but I live for markets and this was a great one.

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We bought a few souvenirs for ourselves, including some chocolate tahini spread, and we came across the Beer Bazaar so we sat down. I ordered their house IPA and instead of bar nuts we were served lemony olives. Israel is made for me!!

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Next we went to find an ATM and also to eat at a falafel place on the street I'd seen on my walk in the morning. We ordered, and they have all these sides you can stock up on to go with your falafel. Hands down the best falafel I've ever eaten. I wish I could open one in victoria as this kind of shop would do so well there!

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Next we wandered back through the market to our place but decided we should get some of the life changing gelato again. We were STUFFED by the end of our morning! We ventured out to get a cab to then take us to the bus station.

The bus we got on was nothing like in Africa - it was cool, clean, the driver was friendly.. we were so happy since we felt a little traumatized from before! Less than an hour later we were in Jerusalem! Found our Air BNB no problem, dropped our stuff and then hit the road to see what we could find. Did a bit of window shopping and found some more craft beer (shocker) and just had a relaxing, wandering afternoon!

We had a late dinner, then walked to a place with vegan deserts which did not disappoint. Overall we had a pretty lazy day of wandering, eating and drinking! But I loved it. Today we have a big walking tour to do, and I'm excited to learn about the history of this holy city!

Posted by kvandervegan 07:38 Archived in Israel Comments (1)

Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa

sunny 28 °C

Getting off the quick plane from Athens to Tel Aviv we grabbed a cab to head to our Air BNB. It was my first time using the service so I wasn't sure what to expect. The internet was right and a metered cab was much cheaper than the fixed price ones would have been! We were dropped off in a quiet street and left to find the place.

Our Air BNB was cute! We got a large room, the biggest we've had so far, and we share the bathroom and kitchen with the host, kind of like their roommate for 2 nights. They had left us a key so we didn't meet them until later, but they're both super sweet, fun people! I'll be leaving them a great review :)

It was only 6pm and we wanted to head straight to bed! We were exhausted, but we really didn't want to be all messed up time wise for the next day so we headed out to find dinner. The city was quiet as their Shabbat was just starting, the religious weekend where most things close. So we found an open restaurant around the corner and sat down. It turns out it was an all vegetarian pub! Score :) Israel was looking up already! The only problem was things were a little pricey, I would say just a hair higher than regular Canadian prices, which we are used to things being a bit lower since we're eating out at least 2 meals a day. I ordered the tehina and bread and was not disappointed, it was delicious.

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We then walked to a grocery store to get some drinks to enjoy at our place, and walked back. The city was quiet but we felt so safe and right at home; we were definitely back to a first world country! Back at our new home we went up to enjoy the rooftop patio and unfortunately it's under construction! We still saw the view but then enjoyed our drinks from our room. We did enjoy some of the crazy graffiti here - it is EVERYWHERE. I think you'd have a hard time finding an open wall! Some of it is really cool.

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Waking up yesterday morning we had a quick breakfast and set out to walk to the old town of Jaffa where we planned to attend the free walking tour. I attended these tours by the same company all over Europe and I was excited to do something that would properly introduce us to the city. The tour was fantastic - we learned all about Old Jaffa, going back to the start, about 500 BCE. I was surprised to learn that most of the town is only about 200 years old, all the buildings look like their 1000 years old! But Israel has been conquered and torn down, destroyed and rebuilt so many times that everything is relatively new. They used sandstone in the latest build about 200 years ago, and that's why it looks so old.

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We learned about this building called the home of Simon the Tanner where St. Peter was staying and sat on the rooftop and had his vision where god told him not to make unclean what he had made clean, and St Peter became the first pope who converted people to Christianity and separated from Judaism.

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We also saw this art piece where a tree was unrooted and hung and suspended in air and it is still continuing to grow. It's symbolic of the Jewish people and how they can still flourish no matter where they have been forced to move in the past.

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We also saw this church that has a piece of rock on the top where the cross sits that comes from a holy site called Banias, where Jesus told Peter he was the rock from which the church was built.

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After the tour ended we walked back towards new Tel Aviv and decided to have lunch at a really popular all vegan spot, one at the top of my list and also one that our host recommended, called Zakaim. It was fantastic - Josh had potato wedges with homemade mayo, we shared the bread and dips that included pesto and a vegan cream cheese, plus some spicy ones, and I had a Greek salad with homemade feta cheese. It was so, so good! I was stuffed. That kind of place made me want to open my own in Victoria!

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Next we went "home" to change, grab some drinks and head to the beach. You can drink in public here, we found out on the tour, so we took full advantage! We had wine and beer on the beach and we tanned and dipped in the Mediterranean. The people watching was great, everyone plays this game on the beach with paddles and a hard ball, hitting it back and forth, and it seems like there would be a lot of bystander injuries since the beach is crazy crowded! Everyone brings their dog to the beach! There are no rules here. Beers, BBQ's, and tons of dogs running around but everyone is happy! You could never do that stuff in Canada, so many rules!

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There's also a few outdoor gyms near the beach along the seawall - this place is so active and it is definitely in to be in shape!

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After an afternoon of sun soaking we headed back to our place to change again and then went out to dinner. We found the cutest little spot that had lots of seafood, I wasn't that hungry since I went all out at lunch, but I ordered some veggie side plates that were to die for. Everyone knows what vegan is and every place has vegan stuff! My side plates were roasted cauliflower with garlic and tahini, and a roasted eggplant with spicy tomato sauce. They came with bread and I was stuffed again by the end. Josh ordered a roasted red pepper side plate and a crab dish. He got crab all right!

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He wasn't impressed he had to break it all open himself haha, and it took some time but I sipped my wine and enjoyed the al fresco dining and couldn't have been happier. We're not in Egypt anymore! ;)

After dinner, even though we were stuffed, we went to a gelato place right beside the entrance to our apartment. I was shocked at the vegan selection! Not just fruit sorbet but actual vegan gelato. They make it all in house, and they use hardly any white sugar in some of them. The lady was having me taste everything vegan and it was PHENOMENAL. By far the most amazing thing I've eaten all trip. I chose the 70% dark chocolate gelato and the hazelnut gelato, on a vegan cone, and I was actually in heaven. Josh too - the non vegan flavours were even more daring, and we will be back today for another round for sure!

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Sitting enjoying our gelato and our host pulls up in his car, saying, "haaay!" Like he's known us forever. Josh had his back to the car and was thinking, who the hell knows us and is talking to my wife right now? Haha. We chatted with him and also with a couple who had their dog with them and they told us how liberal Tel Aviv is with dogs. They are allowed EVERYWHERE - the malls, inside all the restaurants, it's amazing. I let their dog have a lick of my cone! She was so sweet and really wanted some, I could just tell.

Full of gelato we came up to the apartment to relax and head to bed. I'm about to wander out for coffee while Josh still sleeps, a luxury we haven't had all trip (going out without each other). Today the Shabbat is over so the town will be open! We'll wander the huge market here, get some more gelato, and then head to Jerusalem in the afternoon.

Posted by kvandervegan 22:22 Archived in Israel Comments (3)

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