Champagne tasting in Aÿ, France

The Goutorbe family presents its exquisite bottles which contain your most secret dreams. All the love of the earth, all the mystery of creation.

These are the words written in the brochure for the champagne house of H. Goutorbe, located in Aÿ – famous as a centre of the production of Champagne.

It is no secret that the French are proud of their wine. And the reputation of champagne has given the region with the same name even more of a reason to be proud. Marketed as a luxurious beverage, this sparkling wine is so much more than just sparkling wine. Champagne is a protected trademark and a symbol of France as a country of high quality produce.

We visited the house of H. Goutorbe because we needed to buy a few bottles of Champagne for our upcoming Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebration. We could have just gone to the nearest supermarket to buy a few bottles, but as my partner’s parents live just a one hour drive away from the Champagne region, we figured we’d might as well join them and buy our golden bubbles straight from the producer. My partner’s parents are loyal satisfied costumers who visit this particular producer annually to stock up on the good stuff. It was easy to see why.

Along with a group of British tourists, we were given a tour around the production site before heading to my favorite part of the visit: the champagne tasting. The guide described the traditional way to produce champagne compared to the modern way, the process of fermentation, bottling, and explained the difference between vintage (blend of grapes harvested in a particular year) and non-vintage (blend of different wines from different years) champagne. She took us to the cellar and explained the process of the second stage of fermentation. I’m not gonna tell you everything as there’s already a great video on their website documenting the entire process!

During our tour we noticed a fun detail that made me like this family even more. A gallery full of gorgeous travel photos. Just like me, they love to travel. Once a year they travel to a new destination and bring a bottle of their trademark champagne with them. Wherever they go, they capture a photo featuring a bottle of their champagne in front of beautiful landscapes, a volcano in Hawaii (!), monuments and even in front of penguins and glaciers in the Antarctic. How cool is that?!

Moving on to the champagne tasting we were welcomed to a cozy room with a large fireplace, and ended the visit with a taste of the golden bubbles before placing our order and taking home some fine bottles waiting to be shared in good company while celebrating those special occasions with our loved ones.

Would you like a tour?

Website: H. Goutorbe 

Visit: 9 bis, rue Jeanson / F. 51160 Aÿ-Champagne

Phone: +33(0)326552170

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The old press device

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The modern ones

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The cellar

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A different side of Warsaw, Poland

When you think of Poland, do you think about Kraków? Do you think about vodka? Do you think about unpronounceable names with too many consonants and not enough vowels? Well, let me give you something new to think about.

Welcome to Warsaw, the capital city of my favorite Eastern European country (because I’m half Polish and obviously biased). Welcome to a diverse, cosmopolitan city and its young, vibrant environment. It’s not all young and urban here, though. There’s still the Old Town with its beautiful ancient architecture, and the historical royal palaces and their parks on the outskirts of the city. I’m gonna talk more about some of those.

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My favorite park is the Lazienki Park, which is the largest park in Warsaw. It was designed in the 17th century, and the palace on the water – Lazienki Palace – is a must see while visiting this picturesque park. What is the history of this marvelous palace and park complex, you may ask. It was built as a summer residence for King Stanislaw August, and was later used by the President of Poland. Today, its a museum and a venue for cultural, scientific and entertainment events. Speaking of which; from May to September – at noon and at 4 pm – free outdoor Chopin concerts take place there. Take the bus (116, 166, 180) from the central train/bus station to Lazienki Królewskie and check it out!

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Another park I’ve fallen in love with is the garden of the historic Wilanów palace – the “Polish Versailles”, and second home to various Polish kings. Just like the Lazienki Palace, the Wilanów Palace is also open for tourists to visit as a museum. Take the bus (519 or 700) from the central train/bus station to come here and enjoy this idyllic garden!

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After spending a full day in one of these parks, I’m sure your legs are gonna be exhausted from all the walking. And maybe you need a bit of caffeine and some sugar? And a what about a cuddle? You’re probably wondering what on earth I’m on about, and it’s not as weird as it sounds – although some people may still find it weird anyway. Follow me to Miau Cafe – the first cat cafe in Warsaw! I have never felt as calm and relaxed as I did in the lounge area of this establishment. It’s completely hygienic, as all food and drinks are prepared in a closed kitchen area – away from the furry kitties. And the cats are not crawling all over your stuff if you (or the hostess) tell them to back off.

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I’m sure some of you are interested in visiting Poland because you want to go shopping. I don’t blame you. My mother is crazy about it, so I’ve spent a whole lot of time with her inside of the malls of Warsaw searching for things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like. At least it’s not that expensive to go shopping in Warsaw – although it’s way more expensive now than it used to be, before Poland became one of the fastest growing economies in the EU. Zlote Tarasy is kind of hard to miss if you come to Warsaw city center by train or bus, as it’s just across the street from the central train station. This mall has everything you need and more. All kinds of stores, a hypermarket, a food court and a movie theater.

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The other one worth checking out is the large shopping mall Arkadia , which is easy to reach by public transportation, as nine of the tram lines and six of the buses go there. Grab an ice-cold beer at the Bierhalle or one of the many ice cream desserts at Grycan. Enjoy!

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Let me ask you again; when you think of Poland, what do you think about? Did any of these things tempt you into visiting Warsaw during your next trip to Poland?

If yes, then here’s another idea for what you can do in Warsaw. Sit down in a Pierogi-restaurant, order those dumplings filled with deliciousness, raise your pint of Polish beer or your vodka-based cocktail and say “Na Zdrowie!”. You’re welcome.

 

That time when I traveled solo from state to state (US)

A couple of years ago, I was a temporary resident in the sunshine state. A legal alien in Florida. At times I really felt like an alien, with my many “fish out of water” experiences. Humidity was completely foreign to me, and so was the concept of Walmart and its culture. Walmart in Florida was different than anything I’d ever seen before. I’m not talking about the selection of products or the size of the place. I’m talking about the people of Walmart. The exhibitionists, the eccentric men and women who just don’t care what people think, and the ones who were too spaced out to even pay attention. This was my first impression of The United States of America. And then something else happened. I started to get days and weeks off from work – which, by the way, was Disney World. I wanted to spend my free time wisely. I wanted to travel from state to state and see more of the land of the free and the home of the brave. And I wanted to do it by myself.

Before venturing into the unknown, I asked for advice from different people who had already done a bit of traveling within the US, and others who were experienced solo travelers. I wanted my first experience to be a good one. I wanted to make sure I’d be safe and not too lonely. I think I worried more about loneliness than my own safety, to be honest. How naive and foolish of me.

I ended up going to New York City. Manhattan. I should have gone to Brooklyn, as Brooklyn is more my style. In fact, I love Brooklyn so much that if anyone offered me a loft apartment and a job there, I’d drop my life in Paris in a heartbeat. Instead of four nights in Brooklyn, I stayed at Empire Hotel on the upper west side, as I used to be a big fan of the TV-series Gossip Girl. The hotel was one of the filming locations and my favorite character was the one who owned that hotel in the series.The city that never sleeps never slept. I got myself a private guide who gave me a 6 hour walking tour and I explored the rest of the city completely on my own and mostly by foot. And guess what, I have never felt as safe as I did in New York City.

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And then there was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t technically a solo trip, as I had gone there specifically to be someones wedding date. But I did spend most of the time alone anyway, so it kind of was a solo trip. I was neither impressed nor unimpressed with Pittsburgh. People seemed friendly, the Pittsburgh sandwich was quite alright (with its fries and coleslaw inside of the sandwich) and the city itself seemed like a fun place to party or watch football – at the Heinz Field stadium, obviously.

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Before moving to the US, I volunteered as a staff member for the Norwegian Travel Exposition. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to mingle with important people in the industry, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste a single minute of it. I stayed at the exposition from 10 AM to 7 pm every single day that week. Determined and hopeful. Thanks to my stubborn attitude, I was introduced to the CEO of Mall of America. It was quite a coincidence, actually. He needed to make a phone call but didn’t have a phone, and I immediately came to the rescue and offered him mine. We ended up chatting, he tried to convince me to visit Mall of America and perhaps apply for an internship. I never got around to applying for an internship there, but I did put this enormous mall on my bucket list. And I did end up going there. The summer of 2014, approximately six months after my encounter with the CEO of Mall of America. Solo. Hello Bloomington and Minneapolis, Minnesota!

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I also went to Boston, Massachusetts that summer. I had never seen this many Dunkin’ Donuts shops in my entire life. And I had never felt as close to Europe as I did in Boston. Certain parts of the city had kind of a British feel. After seven months away from my continent, it felt good to be somewhere that kind of reminded me of something closer to home. I enjoyed Boston. Too bad I’m allergic to shellfish and was unable to enjoy some of their local specialties – because their seafood is supposed to be absolutely amazing!

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People visit Chicago, Illinois for different reasons. Mine was personal. As I’m half Polish, I was interested in visiting Chicago to learn about the history of the Polish community in the city. I booked a guided tour of The Polish Museum of America and visited one of the Polish restaurants in what used to be the Polish downtown in Chicago. There I was, enjoying a meal just like the ones my mother used to make, in a country far away from Poland – yet, both the waiter, the chef (his mother) and the news reporter on the TV in the background, were right there, speaking the language. This was the first time I had felt slightly homesick during my solo travels. I was happy to be in cool Chicago, but my pierogi dinner (filled dumplings) triggered something inside me. I missed my mother.

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Denver, Colorado. If only I had a dollar for every time someone asks me if I went there to smoke grass, I’d be a millionaire by now. And the answer is no, I didn’t go there to smoke anything. I went there because I wanted to go there. The highlight of the trip was discovering an amazing independent bookstore called Tattered Cover Book Store. I bought five books there, and wanted to buy so much more. Their selection of travel books was great. No, great is an understatement. Fantastic.

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And now, let’s talk about California, shall we? I visited San Francisco and Los Angeles on the same trip, and then returned to Cali to visit San Diego a few months later. I loved San Francisco and San Diego. L.A. not so much. I felt like I was too middle class and basic (guess I explored the wrong neighborhoods) , too ugly and too non-artistic to fully enjoy what Los Angeles has to offer for people who want to be more than just the average tourist, but can’t afford a lavish lifestyle. San Francisco was as windy as I expected it to be (I was there in November) but I fell in love with the city and its hip and artsy vibe. I also had a short fling with a guy I met during that trip, which made the taste of San Francisco even sweeter. But the sweetest was the taste of San Diego sunshine, vegan tacos at SOL CAL Cafe, street markets and feeling the sand between my toes and letting the waves crash on my feet (Coronado Island). San Diego was my California dream.

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Beverly Hills (below)

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Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco

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This legal alien went to The White House. Not really, but I saw it from a distance while visiting Washington D.C. – the capital of the United States (in case you didn’t know). I saw all the monuments, as they were pretty much all next to each other, and I ate delicious street food from food trucks, alongside a whole lot of businessmen in suits. (the photo below is of the United States capitol)

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Savannah, Georgia was another city on my bucket list. Why? Well, I love the movie Forrest Gump and Savannah was one of the filming locations for that movie. I went to the exact same spot where that famous bench used to be – only to find out that it was no longer there. Well, you know what Forrest Gump used to say…”Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”.

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So the big question is; what have I learned from traveling solo? 

I have learned that it’s okay to be alone. It’s no big deal to dine alone in restaurants, visit museums alone or explore monuments and sites completely by myself. It’s absolutely fine! Sure, I had moments where I felt lonely and wished someone was there to share these memories with me. But the freedom, oh the freedom, it made everything worth it. If I wanted to visit four coffee shops in one day, I could. If I wanted to have an early dinner or a very late breakfast, I could! And if I wanted to spend two hours in a book store and the rest of the day in a museum – guess what, I could do that too!

Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel with my boyfriend, my friends and my family, but I’d rather go on another solo adventure than spend my time waiting for someone to join me on my trip, only to find out that they’re not going after all. Then what? Don’t you ever let your fear or other people’s opinions get in the way of your solo travels, and don’t you ever wait around for someone who says they “might” join you, if you’re certain that they won’t. Spread your wings. Fly solo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why your next holiday should be Zanzibar Island!

In collaboration with Love & Dove Africa, I’m excited to tell you all about the place that could be your next holiday destination, your honeymoon, family trip, romantic getaway – or at least for now, the new addition to your bucket list. Welcome to Zanzibar!

(all images  in this post are copyright to Love & Dove Africa)

The Zanzibar Archipelago is located in the Indian Ocean, 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar is the ultimate Indian Ocean Paradise with a fascinating history, with its magnificent old city Stone Town and incredibly spectacular beaches. Zanzibar is a rich cultural and artistic hub. During your visit to this beautiful island you will be awed by the rich culture, artistry and history. Over centuries, different cultures have influenced Zanzibar to become what it is today. Sumerians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Indians, Chinese, Persians, Portuguese, Omani Arabs, Dutch and the British have settled here at one time or another and influenced the local culture into its present fusion. The beautiful Swahili language is spoken on the Zanzibar island. Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s old town, was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in year 2000.

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Zanzibar is a perfect destination both for those who want a relaxing holiday and those who want adventures. Here you can combine spectacular safari adventures with calm days on the beach on this magnificent tropical island. A holiday in Zanzibar is ideal for marine junkies and water sports enthusiasts. You can choose from activities like snorkeling, scuba diving and deep sea diving (among others). You will enjoy the graceful shorelines of Zanzibar islands, with views of exotic ancient dhows in full sail. Enjoy casual walks while soaking your feel in warm, shallow waters along the edge of the white sandy beaches. Zanzibar is a marvelous destination for retreats with its “home away from home” atmosphere. To add even more luxury and relaxation to your trip, enjoy the wonderful spa treatments. And prepare yourself for great Swahili cuisine!

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Cultural Tours in Zanzibar

Listed below are some inspirational experiences and touristic activities that one can engage in while in Zanzibar. These activities are not only enjoyable but also culturally and historically informative. You can take day tours with the assistance of a tour guide.

Tour of Spice Plantations and Markets

Some have referred to Zanzibar island as the “spice island”. These tours are uniquely special because the local guide will aid you in learning more about the history of the spice trade in the region. There are several spice farms spread out on the island. For those of you foodies out there, who are interested in venturing into obtaining some knowledge on the Swahili culinary culture, a spice tour on a farm is an ideal activity! Under the supervision of a local guide, you can take approximately four tours to any of the several spice farms and learn more about the growing process of the spices. Some spices grown include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, cardamom , chilies, saffron, curries and gloves among others. Fresh fruits are wildly grown on the island – such as coconuts, oranges, limes, lemons, jackfruits and durians among others. It’s a beautiful experience strolling down the narrow farm paths, taking in the aroma of several fresh spices. Especially if you’re a foodie, like myself! At the end of the tour, you may even enjoy some delicious traditionally prepared Swahili dishes, directly from the fresh farm produce. You may also purchase spices, which are reasonably priced. You can’t get more organic than that!

Stone Town Seaside front

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Arts and Crafts Tours

Zanzibar island has a rich fusion of artistry inspired by African, Omani Arab, Persian, European, Indian and Portuguese influences among others. You can take a tour in Stone Town visiting several vibrant workshops dealing in handmade textiles, woodwork and fine arts. You will find tailored textiles made from the local Khanga, a local cotton textile which is traditionally worn by young girls and women around the region. These textiles come in amazing colors and prints and usually have special Swahili inspired expressions printed on them. At the wood workshop, you’ll see how the beautiful oriental inspired wooden beds – and the famous Zanzibar majestic doors – are made. The wood works have such magnificent intrinsic hand caved details, which is a special artistry of the island. On this tour you’ll take a stroll down the narrow alleys of the Old Town, you’ll enjoy the sights of the splendid, historical architecture. You can also visit local markets at Darajani, Mwanakwerekwe, the bazaars and ruins of the Sultan palace. The Old Town is filled with amazing restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy fresh seafood and juices prepared the special Shawili way. Some of these cafes and restaurants are overseeing the picturesque Indian Ocean view, which will give you a soothing feeling after a great morning or afternoon tour. Bring your camera!

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Arts Zanzibar

Seafood Stall at Forodhani Gardens

Tour to Prison Island

Visiting the “Prison Island”/Changu Island is a great daytime excursion in Zanzibar. The Sultans used the little island sanctuary as a jail for rebellious slaves in the 1860s. In the late 1800s the British built a prison here, which was used as  a yellow fever quarantine center and not as a prison as commonly believed. On the island, you walk down the footpaths and visit the Aldabra Giant Tortoise sanctuary, which are originally gifted from the Seychelles and they’re supposedly 100 years or older – and at a hefty weight of 200 kilos! You can also see some different bird species, butterflies and duiker antelopes. This island is also a perfect location for snorkeling, with its white sand beach. A beautiful restaurant and resort is also located here.

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Watersports Activities 

The turquoise waters along the coast of Zanzibar and Pemba Island are also packed with abundant sea life and coral reef for snorkeling and diving and several water sports. For those of you who have a big sense of adventure and love water sports, these activities are a must do. Besides snorkeling and diving, other activites include jet skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, parasailing, fishing, and dhow cruising (especially in the evening) and more.

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Visit the Old Slave Market & Anglican Cathedral

While in Stone Town, a visit to the old slave market is an informative trip about the horrifying treatment of slaves in Zanzibar. You will get to see the appalling conditions of the dingy slave chambers where slaves were held captive and shackled. Outside, by the Cathedral, there’s a monument depicting how slaves were shackled in a pit. It’s historical and worth seeing while in Stone Town. For a small fee, a guide will give you a tour. On the same compound, is the Angelican Cathedral, which is constructed on the location of the former slave market. The altar of the cathedral is the specific site where the whipping post is located, where slaves were punished.

Slave Monument

Slave Market Catheral

I don’t know about you, but my head is already in Zanzibar, daydreaming about snorkeling, safaris, eating Swahili cuisine and smelling those fine spices, buying handmade merchandise and learning about local history. 

If you wanna learn more about these tours and Love & Dove Africa’s other tours or just get inspired by their photos, check out their website , follow them on instagram and  twitter !

 

The Vegans Guide to Paris

I came up with the idea of writing a vegans guide to Paris after having spent a week exploring that side of Paris with a friend who is vegan. My friend had never been to Paris  or even France before and had been told and/or read online that she’d have a hard time finding anything to eat in France. After all, France is known for its Foie Gras, Boeuf Tartare and creamy pastries and buttered croissants. France is not exactly famous for being a veggie haven. But I did my research. And I got results. Needless to say, vegans won’t starve in Paris. Quite the contrary. I found several restaurants, a few coffee shops and even a 100% vegan supermarket!

Where To Get Your Vegan Coffee

Oatmeal Paris in the 5th arrondissement (metro: Censier-Daubenton, line 7) is a 100% vegan cafe. They offer coffee-drinks and other hot drinks, “sandwich du moment”, oatmeal of the week and different desserts. I tried their tarte tout chocolat, a rich chocolate mousse tarte. It was delicious! My cappuccino was good too, and so was the matcha latte that my friend ordered. Besides, this place is great for Instagram-snapshots!

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Las Vegans in the 10th arrondissement (metro: Bonne Nouvelle, line 8 and 9) is a 100% vegan take-out place. They offer hot coffee drinks, smoothies and are mostly known for their delicious doughnuts and ice cream. They also offer salads and vegan kebabs if you’d rather have something savory. Both me and my friend ordered a banana caramel doughnut. Good place for a quick takeout!

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Le Pain Quotidien is a restaurant and bakery franchise located in different parts of Paris. I didn’t take my friend there, but I’ve been there several times on my own and I know they have a lot of vegan options on the menu. They offer coffee, pastries, salads, fruit juice, tasty sandwiches and more. I usually order the hummus or the avocado tartine (open sandwich) when I’m there. They’re both vegan and delicious!

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Where To Get Your Vegan Sweet Treats

Vegan Folie’s in the 5th arrondissement (metro: Place Monge, line 7) is a 100% vegan bakery. I have heard a lot of positive things about this place, but was unable to go there as they were closed for the week while my friend was here. I’ll definitely check it out one day, though!

Ara Chocolat in the 9th arrondissement (metro: Anvers, line 2) is a vegan-friendly artisan chocolate shop. I only found out about this place today – so it’s yet another place I need to visit.

Where To Have Lunch/Dinner

Gentle Gourmet in the 12th arrondissement (metro: Bastille 1, 5 and 8) is a 100% vegan bistro-style restaurant. This restaurant is a perfect place for a date/romantic meal and for those of you who love and appreciate modern french gastronomy. I started with a faux gras with raspberry jelly and sauce, accompanied with bread and decorative, eatable flowers. The server recommended the portobello mushroom burger with polenta sticks as a main course, so I ordered it. Sadly, I didn’t order any dessert as I was too full. I will definitely return to this restaurant….and order a dessert – no matter how full I am.

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42 Degrés in the 9th arrondissement (metro: Poissonnière, line 7) is the first 100% raw food restaurant in France. This vegan raw food restaurant is – like Gentle Gourmet – for those who appreciate modern bistro-style dining. I haven’t been to this chic raw food place just yet, but would love to go one day!

Hank Burger in the 3rd arrondissement (metro: Rambuteau, line 11) is a 100% vegan burger restaurant. If you’re in the mood for fast food rather than fine dining, you should definitely check out this place!

Végét’Halles in the 1st arrondissement (metro: Châtelet, line 1, 4, 7 and 14) is a vegan/vegetarian restaurant that I’ve heard great things about, but have yet to visit. They have a large menu with plenty of options and I’m sure even the pickiest eater will find something they like there.

Where To Get Your Vegan Groceries

Un Monde Vegan in the 3rd arrondissement (metro: Strasbourg – Saint-Denis, line 4, 8 and 9) is a 100% vegan supermarket. It doesn’t look that big from the outside, but they have absolutely everything you need. And more. Everything you need for a vegan barbecue, cookbooks (in French), cereals and oatmeal, cheese and spreads, faux gras, vegan rillette, pizzas, different kinds of pasta and sauces, candy and chocolate, biscuits, ice cream – you name it.

…And last but not least, tips to non-vegans like myself, who are planning to host a vegan friend:

  • Cater to their needs. All supermarkets have basic things like soy milk and cereals without honey or traces of milk. And obviously fruit and fruit juice. So even if you don’t want to cook a proper vegan dinner, at least serve them a good breakfast.
  • However, if you do want to cook them dinner, ask them what they like. Just because someone is vegan, doesn’t mean they like absolutely every single vegetable. And it doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to serve them dry lettuce just because you want steak and they can’t eat it. Be nice. Make an effort.
  • Don’t ask them annoying questions like “Why did you go vegan? Do you think you’ll be able to stay that way for a long time? Don’t you think it’s just a phase?”. I got the exact same questions about having tattoos, and about moving to France. And I’m sure vegans get those questions even more often than I did, and I’m sure they’re sick and tired of hearing it.
  • Be open-minded. Take your friend to a vegan restaurant. Have a good time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moldova: A small country with a big heart

Yesterday I wrote about my experience as a volunteer in Moldova in my diary. So if you want to know what a week of volunteering on a community development program in Moldova is like, read all about it here. I highly recommend Moldova both as a destination for your next volunteer project, but also as a destination for a future holiday.

So, if the country is that great, how come we never read about it in travel magazines or hear much about it in general?

So here’s my guess. Lack of marketing. Just like our tour guide at the award-winning prestigious Purcari Winery said; “The only difference between wine from Bordeaux and wine from our winery is marketing”.

Moldova was like a blank canvas to me, and I was ready to start painting a picture. My own picture, without any ideas or outside influences.

Let’s talk about wine, shall we?  Moldova has a well-established wine industry, and was in 2009 the twenty-second largest wine producing country in the world. In fact, 67 million bottles of wine are exported annually. A lot of the Moldovan wineries offer tours and wine tastings, and I got to visit one that offers all of that – and more. How about a night in one of Purcari Winery‘s luxury suites? Or a romantic dinner in their restaurant?

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Purcari Winery dates back to 1827 and still has their original wine cellars. If you want to relax in the sun before or after the wine tour, what place could possibly be better than here? You might even see a black swan there (not captured in the photo, though).

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While in Moldova, you should also visit Chisinau, the capital city. If you’re interested in handmade jewelry and macrame handbags, then check out the Chisinau Souvenir Bazaar. I didn’t take any pictures there, but I can assure you, you’ll love it. I bought a black macrame bag there, and now I can’t go anywhere without it. I love it.

Are there any nice parks in Chisinau?

Yes! I didn’t have time to visit more than two of them, as I was only in Chisinau on a day trip. But the parks I did visit were both lovely.  First we visited Stefan cel Mare Central Park.

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This is a memorial of Monarch Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) who ruled Moldova between 1457 and 1504.

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The other park we visited was the lovely Parcul Dendrariu. A popular spot for wedding photography, couples photography and any other kind of photography where you want a gorgeous backdrop.

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On my last day in Moldova, I left Moldova without technically leaving Moldova. I think it depends who you ask. Let me explain.

I crossed the border from Moldova to Transnistria and stayed in Transnistria for a couple of hours. Maybe not even two hours. But just enough time to look around, buy a fridge magnet and return to Moldova.

Wait…. Doesn’t Moldova border to Ukraine and Romania, and nothing else?

Officially, yes. Transnistria is actually right there on the border between Moldova and Ukraine but is not recognized as its own country, and is only partially recognized as its own state – within Moldovan territory. They have their own currency, their own president, their own flag – and they speak Russian, not Romanian (Moldova).

Before visiting Transnistria, I was told to be careful with what I do, as there’s military soldiers everywhere. But as it turned out, the soldiers were all friendly and were smiling and helping us with directions. They are there to protect the citizens and make them feel safe. In other words, as long as you don’t break the law, you’re fine. I was also told it’s illegal to take pictures of any official buildings. Because of that, I was too scared to photograph anything at all, and ended up taking only one photo in Transnistria. Not even a good one. But at least I have one now. A photo taken from a bridge, of people sunbathing, swimming and having fun (although you can’t really see the people that well).

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The parks, the bazaar, the wineries – they are all good reasons to visit Moldova. But the main reason why I now love Moldova as much as I do, is because of the people. They are some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I’ve ever met. My host family, the local community – even strangers on the streets.

An old lady said to me in Romanian (and a Romanian speaker translated for me): “We are happy to see tourists here. Next time, bring your family and your friends. You are all welcome in Moldova”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karlstad , Sweden (photos and more)

I have written all about my experiences and even added some links to places I went to eat and some of the coffee shops I visited. I have also published a lot of photos. Go ahead, read all about it in my diary !

Would you like to see some more photos from the trip? No problem! Let’s start with Karlstad in this post, and I’ll write a separate post about all the different places I went to in Norway during this trip (there’s so much to tell and so many photos to show!)

Karlstad, Sweden

A city in Värmland County, famous for lake Vänern, which is in fact the largest lake in the EU. Geographically in Europe, only Russia has larger lakes. Karlstad is a popular holiday destination for those interested in outdoor activities and those who just want to spend some time away from the stressful life in the larger cities.

Just look at how green and picturesque it is here.

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This is Östra bron, Swedens longest stonebridge. The bridge was built in 1811 and is considered a historical landmark.

A boat converted into a restaurant called Båten (the boat) on the canal.

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View from the sightseeing boat trip with Karlstadbuss.

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Stadsträdgården park dates back to the 1800s. The park is full of beautiful flowers. In fact, there are over 800 different kinds of plants, trees and flowers here.

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Segerstad. If you want to explore something outside of Karlstad, there’s a wonderful forest rich in wildlife, only a fifteen minute drive away.

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