Weekend getaway in Boston

There are so many choices when visiting Boston, historical sites, museums, culture, sports, and food.

The weekend we visited it was extremely hot out but I was determined to make it through the freedom trail. We walked the trail without a guide and stopped at key spots along the way.

A few of my favorite highlights included Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Quincy Market, Boston Public Market, Boston Common, Paul Revere’s House, Granary Cemetery, China Town, the Old South Meeting House, and Bunker Hill monument.

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I was pretty overheated by the time we arrived at Bunker Hill. Pocky climbed to the top on his own while I headed over to the museum. It’s a fun trek around the city and a great way to learn about Boston’s history.

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We also visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, her mansion that she filled full of art. Her personal collection is still displayed how she curated it. The Mansion has a garden courtyard, a café and a store. While alive, she resided on the top floor of the building. Fun fact — a heist happened in 1990. Men dressed as police entered the museum, tied up staff, and made off with works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, and Flinck. The artwork has never been found.

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Boston is a great town for food – even for a vegan. Here are a few highlights from our trip. Bon Me at the Boston Public Market offers spicy tasty Asian fusion. Taza Chocolate has plenty of options for those that enjoy extremely dark natural chocolate. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that the Marriott at the wharf now has the Beyond burger on its menu. All star pizza bar is a great option for a low-key meal – vegan pizza.

One night we ventured over to Terramia Ristorante in Boston’s North end. They make a fabulous vegan ravioli. While we were there a parade of musicians went passed the restaurant – it was a playoff between the Roma and Italian American bands.

For those staying in Boston and visiting Salem or Cambridge, skip the rental car. It’s a walkable city with public transportation, car services etc. Boston is a great weekend excursion.

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A quick trip to Salem

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit Salem, MA. Witches, authors, Bewitched – what more could one want.

So when Pocky and I were trying to come up with a long weekend getaway that was relatively close to New York, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit Boston and Salem, MA. We stayed in Boston and decided to make Salem a day trip.

We took an early morning ferry from Boston to Salem, which was a nice way to start the day, and learn a little more history about the harbor and surrounding area. Once in Salem, it’s about a 15-minute walk from the dock to the downtown area.

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We ended up paying for a guided walking tour to hit the historical highlights in a few hours, since we only had one day to look around. I learned a bit more about the witch trials, historical buildings and some of the famous people who once lived in Salem.

One of the stories our guide shared was about the statue of Elizabeth Montgomery/Samantha from the TV show Bewitched. I have to confess, I loved that show when I was a child. Some of the episodes were filmed in Salem. In the early 2000s a statue was installed in the center of town.
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The Salem Witch Museum should definitely be on the list for those visiting Salem. It’s an interesting space, the audience in the middle of the theater, with life-size stage sets, a 360 view, figures, lighting and a narration about different experiences of the Salem Witch Hunt.

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The House of the Seven Gables is probably my favorite Nathaniel Hawthorne book. In Salem, there is a seaside estate known as The House of the Seven Gables, with an interesting history. It was built in 1668 for Captain John Turner I, a successful mariner. A wealthy ship captain, Captain Samuel Ingersoll, later purchased it. His daughter Susanna Ingersoll, second cousin of Nathaniel Hawthorne, inherited the property. Hawthorne was inspired by the appearance of the house when he wrote the novel. Also on the property is the house Hawthorne was born in; it was moved to the property in 1958. The tour was very informative and definitely worth the time.

I was pleasantly surprised at all of the vegan food options in Salem. We had breakfast at Jodi Bee bakes; they make a tasty BeeLT with tempeh. Highly recommended. For lunch we stopped at Life Alive Organic cafe, they make amazing and healthy warm bowls, salads, and wraps.

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For those with only one day to spend in Salem, take the 7:00pm return ferry to Boston. The view of the sunset and Boston harbor are gorgeous.

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Take a trip through history at the Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City of New York on 5th Ave is an eclectic treat. It’s right across from Central Park at 103rd St, and an easy stroll to my favorite hideaway in Central Park. They have a nice café with indoor seating, as well as a courtyard in front of the museum with seating, and a great shop with unique items. Make sure to walk up and down the stairwells, they are covered with funky photography murals.

The main gallery showcases Henry Hudson’s voyage into New York Harbor and tells the story of how it became the empire city and the Western Hemisphere’s busiest harbor. They have interactive exhibits featuring Alexander Hamilton, Chinatown legend Wong Chin Foo and anarchist Emma Goldman.

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The second gallery covers the modernization of New York — financial growth, cultural and social life, poverty and urban crowding and more.

The Beyond Suffrage exhibit was a comprehensive look at a century of political women in New York. It spans the1920s through 1960s and depicts causes such as health, labor, the liberation movement, equality, women’s campaigns and roles in government. It showcases political documents, garments – think Rosie the Riveter, photographs, and audio-visual materials.

My favorite Notorious RBG has a section.

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Stanley Kubrick’s Through a Different Lens features more than 120 photographs from the Look Magazine archive from his time as a staff photographer. This exhibit captures everyday life in NY.

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The Activism exhibit spans 17th century to current citizens in NY advocating and protesting together on issues such as civil rights, LGBTQ, wages, and religious freedom.

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Final theater roundup of 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.

While visiting family in California in December, I broke my left foot and severely sprained my ankle. One would think that would lead to loads of free time to write and it did, but I didn’t think complaining about being stuck at home for months unable to walk would make for interesting reading.

Instead…this seemed like a great time to discuss the final two Broadway shows I attended of 2017.

It’s hard to believe that I hadn’t seen the musical Wicked before last year but since there are always so many amazing shows to see in New York…Wicked is one of those musicals that have been playing for quite awhile, so it was lower on my must see list. The top of that list usually features limited engagements or performances featuring particular actors that I want to see perform on stage at least once.

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A friend came to NY for a visit and Wicked was on her must see list – and voilà, now checked off the list. For the show we attended, Jackie Burns was the extremely green (color) Elphaba and Amanda Jane Cooper was the glittery Gliinda. For those unfamiliar, Wicked is the alternative version of the Wizard of Oz, and the story is told from the perspective of the witches. The singing voices of the two leads were fantastic and the show was pure fun.

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Farinelli and the King was the final show of the season for me. It was my favorite play that I’ve attended in at least two seasons. The spectacular Mark Rylance, known for performing Shakespeare and other period pieces on the stage and screen, played the lead. Rylance portrayed King Philippe V of Spain, whose mental health was questionable. Renowned singer Farinelli was hired to live with and perform for the King in the hopes that he would have a calming effect. Two individuals played Farinelli, Sam Crane was the actor, and in the scenes where Farinelli sang countertenor Iestyn Davies stood behind him and performed signing duties.

The first performance of 2018 that I will attend, the American Ballet Theater, is in May. Many of New York’s theatres do not have elevators, which ruled out most performances until now. Looking forward to seeing Misty Copeland and cast perform. If that goes well, fingers crossed, there will be other happenings to share soon.

Austin TX weekend getaway

What’s a girl to do on a snow day? Catch up on the blog…

At the end of November, Pocky and I attended an event in Austin, TX, and we planned a vegan foodie/culture adventure around it.

When most people think of Austin they probably imagine barbeque, craft beer and music — totally on point. But it’s also become a vegan comfort food and gastro pub kind of town.

We arrived on Thanksgiving, which can be an interesting time to travel as a vegan in the US. So we were grateful that the Sichuan River restaurant was not only open, but made great food. They served us tasty, spicy vegetable tofu dishes. We also had a great conversation with one of the owners who used to live in NY.

The next morning began with treats from Voodoo doughnut on 6th street, a short walk from our hotel. It’s a funky spot with great music, a stage in the front corner for bands to play, merchandise for sale, and a nice selection of vegan doughnuts. The maple, chocolate glazed, and strawberry doughnuts were delicious. They also had non-vegan options for the traditionalists.

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Since we needed to walk off breakfast before heading to lunch…we ambled around the downtown area, looked at shops and some of the historic buildings, then headed over to the state capital. We strolled around the grounds for a while and then walked over to Arlo’s for a quick lunch before the planned evening extravaganza (reason for our weekend visit).

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Our first Arlo’s Food Truck experience was at vegan fest in Toronto, Canada. It ranked in the top two favorite vendors that day, so we knew it had to be on the list for this weekend.

Austin doesn’t seem to have a lot of roaming food trucks, but instead four or five trucks are grouped together in parking lots next to bars and clubs and in the downtown business area off Congress Ave.

We stopped at the Arlo’s food truck, or as they call it, “curb-side kitchen,” set up in a permanent space on Red River. We opted for the Bac’n Cheeze Burger made with seitan bac’n and melted cheese and the Chipotle Chik’n seitan patty. It was filling and more than enough food since we had eaten doughnuts a few hours before.

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On our final day, we went to Counter Culture restaurant for brunch. We ordered the tofu rancheros, which was yummy, but the country biscuit bowl was a must have. They make the best vegan gravy I’ve ever had. I’d pour their gravy on top of almost anything. Good thing brunch was filling because we had a packed schedule planned for that day…

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After brunch, we drove to the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Presidential Library, situated on the University of Texas at Austin campus. The library offered a detailed history of his presidency through photos, documents, and the gifts he and Lady Bird received. There was a 7/8th scale replica of the Oval Office set up as it was during LBJ years, and loads of phone systems. I had no idea how much he loved to use the phone…there were old phone booths, and all of the displays included kiosks with phones and a screen to choose which old recordings to listen to. I selected a few conversations between LBJ and Thurgood Marshall, and LBJ and Martin Luther King.

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There was a nice section for Lady Bird, including a replica of her office. I’ve visited a few presidential libraries, which isn’t necessarily an endorsement of a specific president. I’m fascinated by history and find the libraries as a way to time travel in a concise visual way.

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After the LBJ Museum excursion, we returned to Congress Ave to check out the petite Mexicarte museum. The day we visited they had two fantastic exhibits – Love to Death: Community Altars to celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Diego y Frida: A Smile in the Middle of the Way, with photographs of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo by Guilermo Kahlo, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Edward Weston, Peter Jules, Ansel Adams, Nicholas Muray, Leo Matiz, Guillermo Zamora, and Juan Guzmán. They also had a nice gift shop full of day of the dead and Frida items, and other art for sale. So happy we stopped.
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Next we headed over to Rainey Street to meet up with friends. The Rainey Street Historic District is a street with historic bungalow style houses in downtown Austin. Once a quiet neighborhood, it’s now a popular hang out spot for locals and visitors because of all of the houses that have been converted into bars and restaurants. We ended up at Unbarlievable. It has a nice patio in the front, an inside space, and a back patio where bands play. The bar had a very relaxed atmosphere.

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For our final meal we went to the Beer Plant, a vegan gastropub in the residential Tarrytown neighborhood. It’s a good date night spot. Not too loud, with low lighting. They make upscale plant based items and have about 40 craft beers on tap. We started with the ploughman’s plate– a house-made cheese board, tomato chutney, and house-made cultured garlic butter. I know vegan cheese just doesn’t sound appetizing to the traditionalists but it’s come a long way, especially the artisanal soft nut cheeses. We both ordered the big ben – BBQ smoked seitan and a side of mac n’ cheese. I have to admit – aside from doughnuts, mac n’ cheese is my overindulgent guilty pleasure. They are vegan so totally low calorie, right…in my dreams. Anyhow — we finished the meal off with the sticky toffee pudding with coconut whip cream.

Thanks for a great weekend, Austin.

Exploring Antalya Turkey

On a recent research trip, I had the opportunity to be a tourist for one full day, as well as enjoy the city each night once the conference sessions concluded.

The conference was at the gorgeous Akra Barut hotel, situated on the coast of Antalya, Turkey. For those looking for a resort feel, high-end restaurants, spa, spectacular views, etc., this is your place. They had the best lunch buffet with vegetable dishes, loads of salads, breads, fruit, fish and meat options, and desserts.

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Though the Akra Barut is a gorgeous 5 star hotel, for this trip I just wanted a funky, eclectic space among the local population in the middle of the city. So, I found a space near old town off Ataturk Cd. I opted for the Oscar boutique hotel, which was billed as a great local spot for solo business travelers.

I arrived late at night by taxi, par for the course for my arrival in foreign countries, and found two cute little dogs lounging in the main space as I checked in. My room was on the second floor, had two twin memory foam beds, and was good size for a single. That night, I sank into the bed and left the world behind.

The next morning, on my one day off in Antalya it poured most of the day. From the looks of it…myself, and most of the hotel guests, opted for the breakfast buffet at the hotel. It was a typical Turkish breakfast consisting of cheese, honey, jam, olives, salami, egg, tomato and cucumber, bread, pastries, fruits, juices and coffee – plenty of vegan options. Turkish breakfasts are similar to European offerings. During breakfast the doggies were hanging out in the garden restaurant, also escaping the rain. At one point the dogs decided to play under my table, maybe they were hoping for food.

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As the rain slowed, I finally made my way out to explore the city. I headed to the old city and walked through the Hadrian’s Gate, which I believe was built by the Roman emperor in the second century. I was told that the architecture in Kaleici (old city) dates from the Ottoman period, but the walls surrounding the old city are from the Roman period.

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The narrow pathways of the old city leads to the harbor, and along the way there are plenty of restaurants, houses, shops, and boutique hotels. The harbor viewing point is situated on top of a cliff overlooking the harbor – the view is gorgeous. The hike down through the park to the harbor also offers fabulous views of the water, old harbor, and fishing boats.

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That night as I walked around the more modern area of town, I heard the Islamic call to prayer coming from the local mosque. I have heard it before in other countries; in some places, it is subtle, in places such as Turkey, the call to prayer is a central part of daily life and was audible throughout the city streets. For me, there is something mesmerizing about the call to prayer and it offered authentic moments of real life in Antalya.

One of the perks of staying at the Oscar hotel was that they allowed guests to pay for a bottle of more expensive local wine (not the house special) and they kept it at the bar with a room number attached. It was definitely more economical than paying by the glass. One night while sitting in their garden restaurant reading and enjoying a glass of wine, fireworks started going off in celebration of Turkish Republic day, Oct 29. I had a good view from the hotel courtyard.

For the vegans and vegetarians heading to Antalya, it will be worth your while to do the research in advance on restaurants – or prepare to walk around a while before you find a restaurant with options. It’s a coastal town, so if seafood is your thing there will be an abundance of choices. Along with seafood, old town has pub food, a few American style restaurants with burgers, Italian restaurants and local fare. The surrounding modern local city center also has a lot of restaurants but mostly traditional local cuisine like Kebab. Don’t expect to see hummus and falafel everywhere, in that neighborhood it’s mostly found at the vegan spots.

IMG_7979One night while roaming around old town, I stumbled upon the charming Mediterra Art boutique Hotel. On the ground floor they had a lovely poolside restaurant, Müdavim Meze. The meze plate was my only option – it came with Hibes – a spicy dip, similar to hummus with red peppers, Pazi kavurma (greens) with warm fresh bread, and I added a local red wine — fantastic.

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One of the best vegan restaurants in Antalya was the Lifeco Saf, located at the Akra Barut hotel. On one of the lower levels near the exercise facility and spa, it was a great spot to decompress and enjoy the incredible view. They served fresh juices, flavorful teas, healthy snacks and main dishes. I had the coconut curry — it was so good I wanted to drink the curry sauce.

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The spot local vegans and vegetarians prefer is Rokka. There food was so good I think I ate there three times. They have an extensive menu for carnivores and plant based diets. They also have an English menu and their servers speak a little English, which was very helpful. The spinach, onion, tomato, walnut pizza was the bomb; they also made yummy fries. Then there was the traditional platter of falafel, hummus, tahini, pickles, peppers and fresh bread, which was massive and so very tasty.

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For the coffee lovers – Turkey should be on your must visit list. I always bring coffee home from my travels and this time was no different. Making coffee in Turkey is an art form. It tasted good when I made it at home but there definitely is a process to making excellent Turkish coffee that I haven’t yet mastered.

Please visit my Flicker site for more Antalya pictures.

Charlotte vegan eats

These days I do not spend a lot of time in Charlotte, NC. But when I do, I have a few favorite spots that I tend to visit along with the occasional new place.

One night I met friends at Thai House in University City. I really love the fried tofu appetizer. I order their vegetarian Massaman curry whenever I visit. I’ve had a hard time finding a veg version of Massaman that I like in New York, which probably seems strange, but is true.

For another visit with a friend, we had lunch at Le Kebab Grill, which I’ve been to a few times. Hummus, falafel, warm dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) – how can you go wrong?

Saigon Palace on South Blvd is still my go-to Vietnamese spot. I have to admit I order the same thing every time…they make the best veggie cold rolls, and the tofu and vegetables in garlic sauce is pretty tasty.

The night Pocky and I tried to go to the Flying Biscuit for dinner (our usual breakfast spot) we arrived and found they were closed. So we walked over to CO instead. CO is a pan-Asian chain with rice and noodle dishes, sushi and Vietnamese sandwiches. They have a separate vegan menu – just ask for it. The crispy edamame spring roll, the tofu summer rolls, spicy udon, and com chien (fried rice) are yummy. Next time though, I have to try the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. It’s always interesting to try vegan versions of the banh mi, sometimes they have tofu or seitan. One of the best I’ve ever eaten was vegetables and mashed spicy black beans. I should probably re-create that at home this week.

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Last up – Suarez bakery, my surprise find. For those who know me or follow on instagram – you’ll be familiar with my love of doughnuts (donuts). For years I was disappointed by the vegan “cake like” doughnuts sans frosting that were everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, “I’ll eat a good vegan cake doughnut, but for years they typically weren’t anything to get excited about. The choices now are incredible – Voodoo doughnuts, Dunwell or Cinnamon Snail in NY, Bloomer’s in Toronto, or the Holy Donut in Maine – all have spectacular offerings that even the pickiest non-vegan doughnut connoisseur would eat – old-fashioned, glazed, cruller, potato, etc.

So, I googled vegan donuts in Charlotte, and up popped Suarez bakery, which was a shock because they are a traditional bakery that I have walked past many times never realizing that inside…my favorite guilty pleasure awaited. They only have a few vegan options, but their doughnuts are legit. I’ll be dreaming about their vegan-glazed doughnut until the next visit.