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Personal, Travel

A Case of the Post-Vacation Blues

July 28, 2017

I’ve been home in Denmark for almost two weeks now and truth be told, I’ve already browsed all my apps to see if any airline happens to have cheap flights to Southern Europe in August. I am fairly certain that I will indeed implode if I wake up to one more day of gray clouds and rain. While Scandinavian summers aren’t exactly known to be sunny and exceed temperatures of 24 degrees C, this summer has been the worst by far. I think I remember a few days of sunshine in June, but that’s about it. Summer has been canceled and the Danes are going crazy. So much so that Copenhagen is completely empty, aside from the tourists who apparently hate the sun and decided to come here instead. Everyone has escaped to a country far, far away to just get a glimpse of the sun – even if it’s just for a week. And I don’t blame them.

Coming home after 2 weeks of constant sunshine in Sardinia to THIS has been… tough. I feel really bothered by it. Summer and the sunshine are so essential to my well-being that I’m flat out scared that I’ll have a winter depression by September if nothing changes. I want it to be sunny when I go to work and sunny when I come home. I want to go and work out and then go down to our backyard and grill some veggie burgers, drink a glass of rosé, and play cards until bedtime. I want to spend the weekends by the Danish beaches, reading a good book while eating sweet, Danish strawberries. I want to wear sunglasses and shorts and flip-flops, and put sun lotion on before going out. I want my freckles, which only come out when it’s sunny, back. I want to invite our friends out to picnics and play a game of Swedish Kubb in a park. Basically: I want summer but summer decided it would rather not visit Denmark this year.

So in short, since I came home I’ve been having a bad case of the post-vacation blues and I don’t know how to cure it. Watching Netflix, as many people suggest, doesn’t work as I’m a firm believer that Netflix is for all the other 10 months of winter we have in this country. So what does one do to cure the post-holiday blues? If you have any suggestions, please do tell in the comments below!

hvar

I would rather be here… (picture from last year in Hvar).

 

 

Top photo by user smartfat used under creative commons license CC BY-NC 2.0

 

Travel

Off to Rome

October 26, 2016

Scandinavia is beautiful in fall, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s dark and it’s cold. It’s been 3 months at home in Copenhagen and I need my travel fix badly. We have a trip planned for January, but I couldn’t wait that long, so Jacob and I decided to go somewhere. A fall getaway. And what better place to go in fall than Rome? It’s still around 20 degrees Celsius down there, which is basically considered Danish summer. So Thursday evening, we’re off! We’re staying until Monday and we plan to eat, eat, eat, drink, and perhaps see some historical monuments in between. I can’t wait!
Rome Italy

Of course, I will keep you updated on my travels through my social media (I am called liveandletsgo on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook etc – so am easy to find 🙂 )

If you have any suggestions on blog posts I should read before going, or any tips on where to eat (vegan/vegetarian) and drink – let me know in the comments!

Photos by Moyan Brenn, CC license through Flickr. 

Food, Places I've Been, Travel

The best restaurants in Hvar, Croatia

July 30, 2016
restaurants in hvar

This year was my fifth time in the lovely island of Hvar in Croatia. There are many reasons I love Hvar, and the food scene is one of them. The food is simply amazing and despite its small size, Hvar has many great restaurants to offer – no matter your budget and food preferences. Every time we go to Hvar we find new restaurants – either ones we’ve completely missed or new ones that have recently open. Of course, I want to try them all, but that’s not always possible. If you’re planning a trip to Hvar and want some restaurant recommendations, I’ve here compiled a list of the best restaurants in Hvar.

Because I am a vegetarian, I’m not able to eat at all the restaurants in Hvar so I’ve divided this list into the restaurants that I have tried myself and the restaurants that I have heard friends and acquaintances rave about.

My personal favorite restaurants in Hvar:

The Golden Shell
The Golden Shell is located on a small cobble street just behind the big square and it can be hard to miss so look out for the hostess outside. It’s probably one of the smallest restaurants that I’ve visited, with only around 12 tables, but the food is so amazing that we ate here twice during our last trip. They only have one vegetarian meal: a pasta with gorgonzola sauce and apples, and it tastes just like heaven, but they have more options if you eat meat and/or fish. Jacob had the ćevapčići, Balkan meat rolls, in lepinja, a traditional Balkan flatbread, served with onion, a delicious salad, ajvar and potatoes. He absolutely loved it. The restaurant is run by a family. The sommelier/server alone, Antonio (or Toni as they call him), is worth coming here for. He’s charming, nice, has a good sense of humour and knows everything about the food and the wine they serve. As the place is quite small, Toni has the time to chat to his customers (if they feel like it) and explain everything about the food on your plate. While we were there he told two women dining at the restaurant how he himself had caught the seafood they were about to eat, earlier that day. You can hear the knives cutting vegetables in the kitchen, where the chef is never too stressed or busy to deliver a perfect meal. The chef who, by the way, is World Master Chef Ivan Buzolic and sometimes his daughter Maja – both excellent chefs. The food is sourced locally as far as possible and the wine is all local wine. If you’re in Hvar for just one night, this is the place to go.
Where: Petra Hektorovića 8, Hvar.
Website (in Croatian)

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Jacob had ćevapčići at the Golden Shell – the only meat I still miss!

Fig Café Bar
This is a new place in Hvar, opened by an American who moved to Croatia and decided to open up something a bit different than what all the other restaurants in Hvar are offering. Forget the classic Mediterranean pasta, risotto, pizza, meat, fish and seafood and enjoy Mexican pulled pork, pear and gorgonzola flat bread, vegan root vegetables with hummus or a vegetarian Indian curry with raita – food you won’t find anywhere else on the island. The place is small and hard to find, but once you find it you’ll keep coming back. The restaurant with its outside seating is located in a quiet, small street away from the crowds. You can’t make any reservations and it’s often full so either get here early or be prepared to grab a drink and wait a little while to be seated. The food is not only different but tastes absolutely fantastic as well – I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Read more about our visit to Fig Café Bar here.
Where: If you’re at the main square you will see two restaurants called Mizzarola and Ex Rocco. In between them is a small alleyway which can easily be missed if you don’t know it’s there. Walk down that alleyway and you will see the Fig Café Bar logo at the end – then turn left and you’re there.
Website.

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Luna
Restaurant Luna is located on the same small street as The Golden Shell and after you climb the many stairs you can sit on the lovely, cozy rooftop. Luna mainly serves meat and fish but also has a lovely gnocchi with truffles for the vegetarians. We came here early and were the only people there but if you get here later in the evening it’s usually packed. The wine list is filled with Croatian wines and the servers are competent and can help you choose one that goes well with whatever you’re eating.
Where: Petra Hektorovića 1, Hvar.
Website.

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Truffle gnocchi at Luna

Other great restaurants in Hvar

Dalmatino
This restaurant is number one on Tripadvisor in Hvar, so many tourists come here, but it is not a tourist trap at all. The restaurant specializes in fish and seafood and I hear they have excellent service.
Where: Sveti Marak 1, Hvar
Website.

Giaxa
A really cozy restaurant with the most amazing setting on one of the cobble streets, Giaxa mainly serves fish and meat. We ate here a few years ago when they offered to make me a vegetarian pasta, but unfortunately they weren’t keen on adapting their menu this time around. Nevertheless, if you eat meat and fish and want to splurge for an evening, Giaxa is a great choice.
Where: Petra Hektorovica 3, Hvar
Website.

Lucullus
An excellent restaurant as well, with classic Dalmatian cuisine. We used to come here a lot when they had vegetarian options but  they didn’t have them this year so we skipped it. Still, it’s one of the best restaurants in town with excellent food and friendly waiters.
Where: Petra Hektorovića 8, Hvar (same address as Golden Shell above, but they’re right across the “street”.)

restaurants in hvar

Black Pepper with its checked tablecloths (Photo from Black Pepper’s Facebook page)

Black Pepper
A new restaurant that has quickly gained raving reviews among tourists and locals alike. They serve dalmatian classics with a twist and in a lovely setting. Didn’t eat here because of the lack of veg*n food on the menu but again – for meat and fish it’s perfect.
Where: Skaline od Gojave 11, Hvar
Facebook page.

Paradies Garden
Though Paradies Garden is not a new restaurant in Hvar, I hadn’t heard of it until now – maybe they just upped their marketing budget? Either way, it seems to be a place where people enjoy seafood, fish and meat as well as local wine and great service.
Where: Groda bb, Hvar

Do you have any favorite restaurants in Hvar that you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

Food, Places I've Been, Travel

Fig Café Bar – The New Kid in Hvar Town

July 27, 2016
restaurants in hvar

Before traveling anywhere I research the restaurants in the area. Researching restaurants started when I became a vegetarian and found it hard to find places to eat – especially while I travelled. But with time and my growing interest in food, it’s become a way for me to find new, great restaurants and to not get stuck with the mediocre tourist traps while on vacation. So I check Tripadvisor, Yelp, google and different blogs and make a list of restaurants that I want to visit. Fig Café Bar was one of the places I found researching new restaurants in Hvar and what really drew me in was the menu. It’s a very untraditional menu – not a single Croatian meal in there and good options for veg*ns – I had to try it!

We went there early and had some trouble finding the place. It is located in a small alleyway behind the main square and we had no idea how to get there so I had to read the instructions on Tripadvisor (thank you fellow travelers!). There’s a small (very small) alleyway between two pizzerias on the main square. You go through there, up some stairs and see the Fig Café Bar logo – turn left… and there you are. Although we were there early (around 19), there was only one table left and just 20 minutes later, 5 people were waiting for a table.

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Once you see this, you go left.

We ordered our food and some wine by the glass and just sat there and enjoyed the music softly pouring through the speakers. I ordered an Indian vegetable curry with raita and flatbread while Jacob ordered the Mexican pulled pork with flatbread. The food was there soon enough and it was absolutely delicious!

restaurants in hvar

My dish – the Indian vegetable curry…

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…with raita on the side. Make the dish vegan by ordering without raita.

Jacob decided to try the Mexican pulled pork and he was over the moon. He loves spicy food and although he’s not a big meat eater he looooved this. Ask your server about how spicy it is as this may vary from day to day.

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The Mexican pulled pork with sour cream, grilled flatbread and a salad.

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Lovely setting too – I just had to take a pic and Jacob’s all embarassed 😉

We were absolutely delighted with both the food and the service and came back a second time. I tried the vegan root vegetables with hummus and it was delicious as well, so I can recommend that too – though the Indian curry was more up my alley.

INFO:
Fig Café Bar
Address: Stjepana Papafave 35, Hvar
Reservations not possible, arrive early or be prepared to wait.
Serves breakfast from 10am.

Food, Travel

Vegan in Dubrovnik – A Guide

July 25, 2016

Being vegan or vegetarian in Croatia isn’t very common. In fact, when some of my (Balkan-based) family learned that I was vegetarian they didn’t believe me, and definitely didn’t believe that I would even survive. 10 years later, most of them have somehow grasped it, but depend on me eating cheese, eggs and such instead. So if you’re a vegan, you’re a rare kind. Traveling in Croatia as a vegan is not the easiest, but luckily it’s getting easier and easier – especially in the more popular tourist destinations. Dubrovnik is one of the most popular destinations in Croatia and once you visit you will see why. It’s a wonderful, beautiful town. Being vegan in Dubrovnik might not be the easiest thing, but I was there just a few weeks ago and did some research on the vegan food scene. Here’s my guide to visiting Dubrovnik as a vegan:

  • Stay in an apartment or a good hotel

When we were in Dubrovnik we stayed in a wonderful hotel that had some options for vegans during breakfast, but not much else. They had rice and soya milk, sourdough bread (which is made with no animal ingredients), lots of veggies and fruit, marmalade and so on. If you’re planning to stay in a hotel, do check in advance what they offer. However, a cheaper alternative to staying in hotels is booking an apartment with a kitchen. I find this option makes me feel more like a local than a tourist and you can often get great tips from the hosts. Try AirBnb, Booking.com or hotels.com (yes they have apartments too!). When you rent your own apartment with a kitchen you can make your own breakfast and on-the-go lunch as well as the occasional dinner. Not only is this a cheaper alternative than eating out all the time (believe me, I’ve learned the hard way!) but you can ensure that your food is vegan. Plus all the veggies are so much more delicious when they are grown in Croatia.

  • Nischta

Nischta is one of my favorite restaurants! Not only in Dubrovnik but one of my all-time favorites. I’ve written about it here before. The menu is vegetarian and vegan and most of the vegetarian tems can be ordered vegan, which is great. The food is absolutely delicious and the staff is really friendly. It is located on one of the small streets, parallel to the main street in the Old Town, Stradun. Make sure you book a table ahead if you’re eating dinner there though, as it is often fully-booked during evenings.  I could eat here every single day, but beware it’s closed on Sundays.
Where: Old Town, Prijeko bb
More information an d menu on website.

vegan in dubrovnik

Bowl with rice, veggies and tofu

  • Marco Polo Restaurant

Marco Polo is a regular restaurant but also serves vegan food. There’s a vegan salad with apples, walnuts, and cranberries, a tofu steak with wok vegetables, and wok rice noodles with veggies and soya sauce. Although I unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the restaurant, I hear it’s very good. We did walk past it and it looks very nice so I definitely recommend coming here if you’re visiting. Plus, it’s perfect if you’re with a meatie who craves something other than veg food.
Where:  Old town – Lučarica ul. 6
More information and menu here

  • Bio&Bio

Bio&bio is a health store with shops throughout Croatia and makes it that much easier to be vegan in Dubrovnik! The Dubrovnik shop is located a bit outside of the Old Town but you can easily walk there or take the bus from Pile gate. Here you’ll find lots of vegan food – vegan snack bars, plant-based milk, patés, tofu, seitan “meat” and other vegan items. Shop ’til you drop and go cook yourself a lovely meal before you head out for the evening.

Where: Vukovarska 36, Dubrovnik (walk there or take the bus from Pile gate to the Tommy centre). You can buy tickets on the bus.

  • Be nice and ask!

Most restaurants who don’t have anything for you on the menu will make something just for you. They are used to tourists and you’re probably not the first vegan to walk into the restaurant, so don’t be afraid to ask. I normally ask the host/hostess before entering if they have anything I can eat and if they don’t, they often say which dishes the chefs can make for you. If they don’t have anything, well, at least you’ve let them know there’s a demand for it.

  • Farmer’s market

Buy fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruiton the daily open farmer’s market in the Old Town. Get there early and buy everything from juicy, ripe tomatoes to herbs and olive oil at better prices than in the supermarkets. There’s also a farmer’s market in Gruz (by the harbour in Dubrovnik) but it’s also a fish market so be prepared to see a lot of dead fish 😉 .

Dubrovnik farmer's market

Gruz farmer’s market

I think that covers it for now, but as soon as I hear more about new vegan-friendly places I’ll make sure to add them here – do let me know in the comments if you’ve found a good restaurant or shop with a proper vegan selection. So as you can see, although Dubrovnik isn’t covered with vegan restaurants on every corner, being vegan in Dubrovnik can definitely be done with some research and planning – and preferably a small kitchen.

Travel

The Ultimate Guide to Zadar

June 23, 2016

Zadar is the city in Croatia that I’ve been to the most times. When I was a child, we’d come here every summer to visit our relatives and we always had a blast, whether it was playing at the beach or eating ice cream cones in the old town. Of course, I’ve been there as an adult as well to visit family and now I like it even more than I used to. Zadar is larger than popular Dubrovnik and has a wonderful city center made up of the Old Town, as it is in many Croatian cities. Zadar is located north from Split, around a two hour drive on the freeway, and is over 3,000 years old. Pretty impressive, right? The city boasts with architecture from Roman times, such as the Roman Forum and Iaderae monuments from the Middle Ages, countless churches and monasteries etc. If you don’t know which Croatian city to visit this summer, I’ve created a short, yet extensive guide to Zadar.

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Me in Zadar, enjoying the sunset a couple of years ago.

Stay at…

The most popular way of living in Croatia is renting apartments or rooms from locals. Check out booking.com or hotels.com (adlink) to find some pretty nice places. Staying this way is quite cheap and you can stay in the neighborhoods where the locals live, getting to know the Croatian way of live. However, there are also many nice hotels – Falkensteiner has some really nice hotels in Zadar, including the Adriana Hotel by Borik located just by the beach and a 20 minute walk to the city centre, while the Iadera hotel and spa is located a bit outside of the city but has a real luxury feeling to it (full disclosure, one of my family members works there but I haven’t been paid to write this 😉 ). If you’re a backpacker and just want some place cheap and nice, there are plenty of hostels as well – again check Booking and Hotels.

Enjoy sunny days…

One of the most popular beaches in Zadar is Borik, it’s quite large and there’s something for everyone here. The adventurous types can rent a scooter and the kids can play by the children’s area. The beach is mostly pebbles, as in most of Croatia. Another popular beach is Kolovare, frequented by both locals and tourists, and the recipient of the international Blue Flag award – a symbol for clean water and quality. If you have a car, you can drive 12 km north of Zadar to Petrcane, a very popular beach in a small fishing village. This beach has markets, restaurant and everything else you could possibly need. Close by is also the popular beach in Nin, where you can smother yourself in the famous medicinal mud, which is said to treat everything from rheumatic diseases to skin diseases (although I’d recommend it just for the fun of it – your skin becomes really soft!).

Nin medicinal mud

Here’s Jacob, covered in the medicinal mud of Nin. You apply it straight from the ground, wear it for half an hour and wash it off in the sea.

guide to zadar

The sunset in Zadar – isn’t it one of the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen?

Visit…

You can’t write a guide to Zadar without mentioning The Greeting to the sun and the Sea Organ, which is also the best location to watch the famous Zadar sunset. The Greeting to the sun is a unique light installation which uses sunlight to create amazing light shows in the evening. The Sea Organ is just as unique and plays soft and relaxing music with the help of the waves coming in from the ocean. Sit here with your loved ones and enjoy the sunset, the music, and the light show. You’ll find several national parks which can easily be reached by bus or car, Plitvice Lakes is a 2 hour drive away but you can also visit the picturesque waterfalls of Krka near Sibenik or visit the Paklenica canyons, both just a 50 minute ride away. If you have access to a boat, I highly recommend sailing out to the Kornati archipelago. The water is crystal clear and bright blue and the lack of tourists makes it the perfect place to really get away from the everyday vacation life.

Don’t miss: The Full Moon Night, usually in August, when the city turns the lights off down the main street Riva and the locals make traditional dishes you can taste.

guide to zadar

Old Roman forum ruins

guide to zadar

The Greeting to the sun

Feeling adventurous?

Go river rafting in the Zrmanja river, located one hour away by car or bus. You can go rafting April-October. If you visit during the summer months, the water levels are usually lower and calmer while a spring or autumn visit will give you more of an adrenaline rush. There are a few different river rafting centres, check out Raftrek, HuckFinn, and Riva Rafting Centar. I did river rafting while in Montenegro/Bosnia last year and it was such a wonderful experience, so I really recommend this if you want to see the best of Croatian nature.

Shop…

The main street in the old town, Riva, has many good shops whether you’re looking for fashion or locally produced souvenirs. If it’s raining out while you’re visiting Zadar, you can indulge in an afternoon of shopping at the Supernova shopping center, which has an abundance of international and local stores for men, women and children alike.

guide to zadar

You can’t miss St Donatus Chruch if you’re shopping in Zadar.

Eat at…

There are many great restaurants in the Old town and there’s really something for everyone. But my favorite restaurant is located outside of theold city and is called Mamma Mia. They make the best lasagna you will ever taste (whether you choose the vegetarian or the meat version). The staff is friendly and food is amazing! Other places worth mentioning are Restaurant Bruschetta and Pasta & Svasta. If you’re vegan, the restaurant Art of Raw serves vegan raw food daily during high season (closed if the weather’s bad) in the lovely The Garden, which has an amazing view of Zadar.

Get your party on at…

Zadar is not just for families. If you want to sip cocktails or party all night long, Zadar’s the city for you as well. The Garden Lounge that I mentioned above has such wonderful scenery and atmosphere, and so has Lounge & Bar Ledana, so it’s a must to grab a drink here. Otherwise there’s Maraschino – café by day, night club by night, or Yachting Bar close to the Borik beach. Also, be sure to check out Podroom which is open during weekends and is the place to party all night long

guide to zadar

The sun is setting behind the mountains…

I hope you enjoyed my guide to Zadar, whether you’ve visited it before or not. It’s truly a lovely and underestimated city – and cheaper than both Dubrovnik and Split.

Travel

How To Stay in Luxury Hotels On A Budget

June 21, 2016
Luxury hotels on a budget

Who doesn’t want to stay in luxury hotels while vacationing without blowing your budget? My first five star hotel experience was the Hilton Park Lane in London when I was there for my birthday last year. We were upgraded to a room on the 26:th floor, welcomed with delicious pastry in our room, and enjoyed having a 10-minute-walk to Oxford Street as well as one of my favorite bars in London, Galvin at Windows, a few floors up.  It was such a fantastic way to spend my birthday. For me, the hotel is definitely part of the experience of traveling. Sure, you can stay in a hostel or a hotel outside of the city centre if that’s what your budget or preferance is, but if you have a bit more money to spare the price difference between a 3, 4 and 5 star hotel isn’t always as big as you would expect – at least not if you know how to get the best deals. As for me, I think enhancing my travel experience with a good hotel is worth the extra money. Getting away and living in luxury for a few days will linger long after the hotel bills are payed. To this day I remember my stay in London as one of my best weekend getaways. Of course, I don’t necessarily have the money required for staying in 5 star hotels, but I do have some very good tips for staying in luxury hotels on a budget:

Look for the best deals

There are some great sites to use if you want the best deals on luxury hotels, such as secretescapes.com (adlink) or Trivago.com. While Trivago helps you find the hotel booking site with the best deal on a specific hotel, Secret Escapes has offers from luxury hotels all over the world that offer heavily discounted prices on specific dates. It’s always worth checking out if you’re going somewhere – you could end up staying in a luxury hotel for the same price as you would pay for two people in a private dorm in a hostel.

Join A Hotel Members/Loyalty Club

If you’re often staying in hotels, it might be a good idea to join their members clubs for good offers and discounts. I always book through hotels.com (adlink) and joined their Rewards program a while ago. The Rewards program lets you collect the number of nights in a hotel and once you have collected 10 nights (1 night = 1 night in the reward program) you get a one night stay for free! If you collect 20 nights, you get 2 stays and so on. The Rewards program is great and has actually enabled me to get a stay in a 5 star hotel for our upcoming trip to Dubrovnik in Croatia for a very reasonable price.

Take a chance

No hotel wants empty rooms, so if you want to take a chance you can always check for rooms right before you leave. Many times it’s cheaper to book a few days or a week before you arrive, because the hotel wants to fill the rooms. Of course, you do risk not getting a to stay at any luxury hotel at all if everything’s already booked, but oftentimes the hotel rooms are just empty and will be cheaper – if you ask for it. Always check hotels.com or trivago (or other hotel deal sites) for the best prices and if you don’t think the price is low enough you can try reaching out to the hotel and try to negotiate. Maybe they’ll be willing to give you a better fee if you skip the breakfast or only require cleaning every other day, or maybe they will be willing to upgrade you to a suite for the price of a regular room. Pick up the phone, introduce yourself politely, and start negotiating!
luxury hotels on a budget

 

Do you have any other tips when it comes to staying in luxury hotels on a limited budget? Let me know in the comments.

(This post contains adlinks. When you click on them and buy something from them, I get a small percentage of the sale. These sums can help me with managing the costs associated with running liveandletsgo.com and I very much appreciate you using my links.)

Pictures via Pixabay under CC0 license.

Travel

How To Be An Animal-Friendly Traveller

June 13, 2016
animal-friendly traveller

Summer’s coming up and most of us leave our countries of residence to soak up the sun, culture and ambience of another country with our loved ones. For many, this involves going some place new and discovering what the local attractions have to offer. Unfortunately, it often involves some sort of animal activities: zoos, dolphin shows or something else where people who are curious and love these creatures are drawn in and unbeknownst to themselves support an industry that is inhumane for the very animals we care about. You don’t have to stop eating local meats or cheeses if you don’t want to, but being an animal-friendly traveller is actually really easy and makes all the difference for the animals.

The animals in question do not have to be endangered species for it to be animal cruelty – rather it’s about the conditions they live under and how they are trained in order to follow instructions from humans. I’ve made the mistake myself in my younger days, not realizing that my well meaning and curiosity was in fact contributing to the exploitation and cruel treatment of the animals. So here’s how to make sure that you are an animal-friendly traveller this summer and all the summers to come!

Avoid zoos, acquariums, riding on elephants etc.

Does the activity involve watching, touching or taking pictures with animals who are confined and not in their natural environment? Are you offered to ride an elephant, a camel or a donkey? Be smart about it. Many zoos and acquariums claim that they are doing conservation efforts and study the animals but that is not a good reason to keep them locked in small confinements, much smaller than their natural habitat. There are countless examples of this, SeaWorld being the most famous one, where animals die from being mistreated. While elephants and camels do get to walk around, they also stand in the sun for many hours just waiting for tourists to pass by and often have to carry hundreds of people per day. Sometimes they are left with no water or food and are trained, often with cruel methods, to not be agressive towards humans. If you wouldn’t ride an elephant in its natural habitat, please don’t do so elsewhere either.

Is a sanctuary a sanctuary?

Many places claim to be sanctuaries for animals, but many of them have proven to have hidden agendas and in fact exploit the animals themselves. Google the places you plan on visiting or contact a local animal right’s group and ask them if the place treats its animals well. Just because a place claims to be saving animals, doesn’t mean they necessarily do. This is especially true in Asia, with many elephant or tiger “sanctuaries” who invite tourists to pet the wild animals.

Don’t buy cruel souvenirs

Many places you can buy souvenirs made from animals – shark teeth necklaces, “medicine” made from animal blood, shells from turtles or sea animals etc. Don’t buy these! Most places have other beautiful, hand-made souvenirs that you can take home instead of something that has put an animal through torture.

Speak up!

Here’s one I think that especially us Scandinavians need to be a lot better at! Often we tend to not speak up in order to avoid confrontation but it’s really, really important that you show that animal cruelty is not okay. If your travel agency offers excursions where animals are exploited – let them know it’s not okay! If you see something on the street where an animal is exploited or hurt – please do speak up! Report offences towards animals to the local authorities. If you see a hurt or homeless animal – contact a local shelter. If travellers show that we do not accept animal cruelty, travel agencies, hotels and governments might move towards a more humane tourism in their countries.

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Photos via Pixabay.com/CC0 Public Domain

Food, Places I've Been, Travel

Dinner at Michelin-starred River Café in Brooklyn

May 13, 2016
River Café in Brooklyn, New York

When planning my trip to New York, I really wanted to visit the restaurant that Meg Ryan has dinner in in Sleepless in Seattle. I found out it was the Rainbow Room at the Rockefeller Center and booked a table only to find it was a special occasion that cost way more than I was willing to give for a dinner without wine. So I researched some more and found that River Café in Brooklyn was a good alternative, with an even better view. Of course, I booked a table right away.

We arrived a bit late, but our table wasn’t ready so we grabbed a drink in the bar, right after we had picked our chins off the floor. We had hurried through the Dumbo area of Brooklyn from the subway and when we finally found the place we were astonished by not only the view but the atmosphere outside of the restaurant. I mean, take a look at the picture above as well as this one and tell me you’re not impressed:

river café new york brooklyn

River Café in the front with the Manhattan skyline in the back

We had the most amazing view from the restaurant over the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. Our amise bouche arrived, which was octopus, so we politely asked for a vegetarian version and the friendly server soon arrived with a cold asparagus soup. They don’t have an a la carte menu, as we had first thought,  but a three course menu where you get to choose your meals from a menu.

For starters, I ordered the handmade ricotta gnocchi with asparagus spears, grilled wild ramps, salsify purée and crispy guanciale. No, I have no idea what the last two are but it was one of the best meals I’ve had in my life – it was that good. Jacob ordered the beet salad with goat cheese and was also impressed – although not as impressed as I was with my meal. I wanted to order it again for the main course, but instead chose the only vegetarian thing on the menu: the mushroom wellington which was a vegetarian take on the beef wellington and it was served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Of course, I was again delighted! How could something so simple taste so good? Jacob, who rarely eats meat, ordered the duck breast and he said it was the best damn piece of meat he’d ever had.

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Jacob’s beet salad

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Vegetarian choice: Mushroom Wellington, with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

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The best damn duck in the world, according to Jacob.

As we sat in our little corner overlooking the rest of the room and the big windows with the spectacular view, the servers catered to our every need, never letting our wine or water glasses get even remotely empty.

After a little rest & digest, we ordered our desserts: Jacob ordered the Chocolate Brooklyn Bridge with raspberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream and meringue while I ordered a milk chocolate soufflé (without the marshmallow as it’s not vegetarian) with hot fudge and Tahitan vanilla bean ice milk. As you can tell by that description alone, we weren’t disappointed. As we were about to devour our desserts, the server came up and said it was about time we moved up to the first row of tables for a n even better view of night-time Manhattan. We happily agreed.

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The chocolate Brooklyn Bridge…yum!

Everything about this restaurant was pure perfection and it was only when we were about to leave that I saw that it has indeed been rewarded a Michelin-star not once, but twice. I wasn’t surprised at all, as it genuinly was a an excellent restaurant with delicious, yet unpretentious food, an impressive wine and cocktail list, and impeccable service.

As we sat in the cab heading back to Manhattan, impressed beyond or expectations, we did feel a bit guilty having spent so much money on food and drinks – but considering it was a night we’ll always remember, we decided it was 100 percent worth it.

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Travel

This Jet Lag Thing…

May 3, 2016

“How will I ever survive today”? I thought on the plane back home from New York, when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to sleep before we arrived in Copenhagen. Now I finally understand why people fly business class! I can’t sleep in an upright position so I stayed awake during the entire flight, trying my best to get at least a quick power nap, but soon realized that was never going to happen. I watched the movie Carol (which is great btw and oh, the costumes! True 50’s extravaganza), played some games, and watched a few series and then we finally arrived, ahead of time and everything.

Before going to New York, I had never flown more than 5 hours and never experienced jet lag. The first night in New York, we watched a Bond movie, fell asleep at 9pm (3am Scandinavian time), and woke up at 4 am. It took a few days but we managed to turn it around pretty well. So I thought that maybe I could handle this jet lag thing after all and thought I’d handle it well the other way around too. But boy, was I wrong.

My body doesn’t really know what’s happening to it. I sleep four hours at the time and feel hungover for 7-12 hours before I finally get four more hours of sleep. Yesterday I ate spaghetti and ketchup for breakfast AND secondbreakfast (it’s a thing, I swear). I feel sick, tired, and occasionally want to cry. Needless to say, I can’t wait for this jet lag thing to pass and for things to go back to normal.

Photo: Alyssa/Flickr creative commons