Insiders Guide To Lisboa

Insiders Guide To Lisboa

Ah! Lisbon. It's been a city that's long been on my list of places to travel for a very a very long time. 31 countries in under a decade, I'm not sure what's taken us this long to visit. The wines and Madeira, the history and culture rounding every cobblestone turn, not to mention the beaches, Baroque architecture, and the applause worthy vivid sunsets... Portuguese perfection at it's best.

Everyone that I know that has been, gushes about it, comparing its similarities to my city by the Bay, San Francisco. Perhaps it's the Golden Gate Bridge that isn't, the cable cars transporting visitors throughout the city, or getting your walking shoes prime for the urban hiking extravaganza through the City of Seven Hills?

Not only is Lisbon laden with charm and friendly people, but there is also cultural and artistic richness here. Experiencing the addictive buzz of this town first hand, I can see the sticking similarities of this old world charming place. Get excited yet again for that glorious feeling of teetering in the unknown – this time, by way of Lisbon.

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INSIDERS GUIDE TO LISBOA
INSIDERS GUIDE TO LISBOA
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INSIDERS GUIDE TO LISBOA
INSIDERS GUIDE TO LISBOA

EAT

Mercado da Ribeira ≫ Food tip in #Lisbon? Try everything! From the sweet cherry liquor Ginjinha to the conservas and grilled octopus. And one way to get a taste of it all is the Time Out Market located in Mercado da Riberia. It's a collection of legitimate big deal chefs and purveyors in a boozy food hall near the city’s waterfront. It’s pretty impressive and popular with locals and tourists alike and undoubtedly the least Lisbon-feeling place in the city but a great way to get a sampling of the vibrant foodie scene. It's also a great place to visit on Sunday's when most places are closed. You will also find great local wines as well! If you want some fun little gifts to take home, grab beautifully retro-packaged tins of sardines from the Conserveira de Lisboa. And check out my favorite stand of all – the plants at O Meu Amor e Verde.

If I had to pick one favorite restaurant in Lisbon, 1300 Taberna is it.  Located inside Lisbon’s LX Factory, aka the arts district. The grilled octopus and the charcoal-grilled black pork are a must order here. Chef Kiko Martins created A Cevicherria, a Peruvian-inspired ceviche menu with Portuguese flair and a giant octopus hanging from the ceiling, which is pretty rad.

Inside the São Carlos National Theatre in Chiado is Café Lisboa, a beautiful place that is perfect for lunch by Portuguese famous chef José Avillez. A charming space with a beautiful terrace as well. There is also Bairro do Avillez which has been getting a lot of attention for its lively atmosphere, delicious fare. A must try are the giant red shrimps - they won't disappoint. And if you still haven't gotten enough of Avillez, try Cantinho do Avillez for dinner. Simple sophistication. A lovely relaxed dining room and exceptionally friendly staff. The Asian-inspired cuisine here is amazing. I could have chosen one of everything on the menu, it all looked so good (I decided on the scallops (highly recommend), and the meatballs in green curry). 

Located in Chiado, Tágide wine and tapas bar is a beautiful tapas bar serves excellent small plates and delicious Portuguese wines. Be sure to try the custard tarts (served warm with cinnamon ice cream). A little pricier, but worth it. For the city’s absolute best seafood, hands down head to Cervejaria Ramiro. This is a Lisbon institution – loved by tourists and locals alike. Simple, but the best. Another Lisbon institution is Pap’açorda which located in Bairro Alto. Head there for dinner. The restaurant was once the ‘it’ place for the media crowd and celebrities around town. Pap’Açorda’s décor is simple and understated, and the food is amazing. Authentic Mexican in a really fun and colorful space in the Cais do Sodré district is Las Ficheras. Come here for quesadillas and muitas margaritas!

INSIDERS GUIDE TO LISBOA

Smoothies & Coffee Shops

The coffee culture in a lot of Europe is slowly evolving and Lisbon has sure caught on. For downright delicious coffee head to Cruzes Credo, a casual coffee shop with free wifi and across the street from Se Cathedral. It’s a great place to grab lunch/dinner with many gluten-free options. Pois Cafe also offers great coffee, free wifi and wonderful, casual meals. Enjoy a cup of coffee with house-made almond milk as a milk alternative at The Mill coffee in a minimal, modern, and wonderful setting. They also offer avocado toast, which I've heard is really good! In the Principe Real neighborhood, Copenhagen Coffee Lab is a cool spot with a Nordic-designed interior serving up amazing coffee. If you’re walking north of the city or along Avenida da Liberdade, make sure to stop at Fabrica Coffee Roasters.

Cold-pressed juices and smoothies at Yao Pressed Juicery just west of Bairro Alto. You can make your own juice combo or grab pre-made juices to go (perfect if you have a refrigerator.) The smoothies here are amazing, and so are the nut mylks. Another great option is Liquid LoungeA small organic juice/smoothie spot that’s got every combo of green juice or fruit smoothie imaginable. 

STAY

Airbnb ≫  Lisbon seems to be awash in reasonably priced airbnb apartments and I would suggest you take advantage of those options over the hotels. It's a great way to really enjoy the city and immerse yourself the way that the locals do it to book an Airbnb in one of the neighborhoods. Neighborhoods to consider? Lisbon’s Baixa, or ‘downtown’; Alfama the city’s oldest quarter; Bairro Alto the city’s bohemian quarter with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes; Belém a historic suburb with a lot of culture.

Palacio Belmonte ≫ For high-end historical luxury that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else, the Palacio Belmonte is a 15th century palace-turned-guest house. Tucked away in the streets of Alfama, right up by the Castelo de São Jorge (atop the highest hill in Lisbon), this enchanted palace-style accommodation is run by a charming husband and wife team, and makes for a truly memorable experience.

The Independente ≫ Affirming Portugal’s reputation as having the best budget accommodation in Europe, these neighboring late-19th-century mansions in a premium location on the border of the Bairro Alto & Principe Real districts, were stylishly converted in 2011. With views over the Tagus river, this lovely hotel is full of classical features – big shuttered windows, high ceilings, vintage furniture, stained-glass windows, floors laid with traditional Portuguese azelujos, and wrought-iron balconies. There is also a stylish in-house restaurant on the ground floor – Decadente – with a modern Portuguese menu, cozy atmosphere and beautiful outdoor courtyard.

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INSIDERS GUIDE TO LISBOA
INSIDERS GUIDE TO LISBOA

SHOP

Just because! Portugal’s first ever COS (Collection of Style) store is as fresh and beautiful as the rest. COS – the higher-end label of H&M – is full of beautiful and timeless staple pieces – simple, stylish basics – with reasonable, mid-market prices. I can’t walk past one without stopping inside, in any city. Feira da Ladra (“thieves market”) is Lisbon’s biggest flea market, held in Alfama each Saturday morning. Come here for some amazing antique finds. The market starts at the Arco de São Vicente – an arch near where the famous tram 28 stops. With a store in Baixa (Rua dos Bacalhoeiros), and one at the Mercado da Ribeira, Conserveira de Lisboa for the most beautifully vintage-packaged tins of sardines. A staple on any Lisbon shopping list, they have been around since 1930s. A perfect gift to take home. In Bairro Alto, this is Portugal’s most famous chocolate brand, Arcádia , created in the city of Porto in 1933. I love the wrapping as much as I love the taste of the chocolate itself. It makes for another perfect gift. Try the port wine flavor! LX Factory. In a far-off corner, somewhere between Lisbon and Belém, an old industrial site has recently been converted into an exciting new art and design district. A creative hub full of galleries, cafes, bookstores, and clothing boutiques, this is the perfect place to while away a few hours. Shop here, eat here, hang here. I especially love the Ler Devagar bookstore, set amidst an old printing plant, with a little café tucked away amongst the books.

Insiders Guide To Lisboa
INSIDERS GUIDE TO LISBOA
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FROLIC + EXPLORE

Belém ≫ A neighborhood famous for its monuments near the river and its pastry stop at Pasteis de Belém. Sit along the river and enjoy the beautiful views of the iconic 25 de Abril Bridge at sunset - the colors are amazing! Tour the monastery Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, one of the oldest in Europe, Torre de Belém, Padrao dos Descobrimentos, and the Centro Cultural de Belém (Contemporary Art Museum). EDP (Lisbon’s Electricity Museum) is worth checking out. this beautiful old power station was once responsible for supplying Lisbon with all its electricity. 

Principe Real/Bairro Alto ≫ Walk down Rua da Escola Politecnica, then Rua d.Pedro v. When you’re coming down the hill stop on the left at the ‘miradouro’ to see the views of the city and have a coffee. There are several ‘miradouros’ (lookouts) spread around town with spectacular views and cute little cafes and tables outside. My favorite one in Alfama is Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which is located halfway up the hill, at the top of Rua de Augusto Rosa.

Alfama ≫ A very charming, very old part of town (and my favorite) with azulejos (the colored tiles) at every turn. Great photo opportunities. Don’t miss the Castelo de São Jorge (São Jorge Castle) at the top of Alfama for an amazing view of the city. 

Chiado/Baixa ≫ Perfect to wander around and explore. Watch the sun go down from Park – a tree-filled rooftop bar, above a parking lot in Chiado, with amazing sunset views, funky tunes, and chilled out vibes.

EXPLORE OUTSIDE OF LISBON

Sintra ≫ One of the most beautiful and poetic places in the world, just a little outside of Lisbon. You will feel as if you are in a fairytale here. Wander around, grab a coffee, do a spot of shopping, and take plenty of photos. Get lost in the magic. A few hours will be enough.

Guincho ≫ A beautiful beach town. Have seafood for lunch at Mar do Inferno. Or drive a little further north to have lunch in Azenhas do Mar - a little cliffside town overlooking the Atlantic Ocean which has amazing seafood and stunning views. 

 

The Art of Traveling Ultra Light

The Art of Traveling Ultra Light

One glance at me and you presumably think I am the type of girl that packs a full luggage filled with shoes, to accompany a second (maybe a third) filled with millions of outfits that most likely will never make a cameo. Well, you have me all wrong.

I wasn't always a master at the art of traveling light. Over the years I've learned to pack smart. Like many females, I used to pack a BIG ASS suitcase (sometimes 2) filled with tons of outfit options, shoes, and accessories. After countless trips, I started to master the art of packing and quickly realized that I didn't need copious amounts of options. Each trip I take, I learn more and more about editing my outfits and shoes. Plus, if you are traveling from place to place, it's pretty easy to move swiftly from one location to the next.

When I tell people that I traveled for 18-months straight with a 25" suitcase, they never believe me. I show them this photo, and their jaws drop in disbelief. I should also add that this was towards the end of our travels, with three months more to go. A few more clothing items made their way into my luggage. Hey, how can you not shot in Paris, Berlin or Barcelona? I even managed to fit a paella pan miraculously; my wheels were about to burst off, but it fit.

 Here  are my arsenal tips for traveling ultra light:

Check the weather before your trip. Why? This way you'll know what to pack. I used to never do this and sometimes I'd over pack the wrong items and under pack the needed items.

Select your day-of-travel outfit wisely. Why? Because it will create more efficiency when you pack your luggage. I'll typically wear heavier shoes (wedges or boots), a coat or jacket, and a hat. These items will save you space and weight in your luggage. (Note: In the video, I packed my light coat in my luggage since I had room to spare. I generally take it on the plane with me.)

Pre-select your outfits. Picking your outfits ahead of time will not only save you the headache of "what am I going to wear today?" but it will also allow you to pack clothing items that can be combined into multiple outfits. Style your outfits and snap a photo. This will help you keep an inventory of what you have and different outfit combinations. For me personally, I love dresses and jumpsuits. You can dress them up or down, layer them with cardigans, jackets and button downs.

Choose a color palette.  Pick a favorite item that you want to emphasize in your packing list. Then choose two other colors that compliment it well. These three colors will be your color palette for your packing list. I like to pick neutral items as a base like black, white or beige and this will help me decide what I pack.

Pick outfit items that can be repurposed. This is probably my favorite one. Pick out items that can be worn in various ways.  All of the tops should coordinate with all of the bottoms you pack. All outerwear items like a  cardigan and blazer should match everything else, all tops and bottoms. Layering is a great way to get lots of combinations from just a few items. Make sure your tops are thin enough to layer and have coordinating colors. 

Accessories to help change an outfit. Accessories are a great way to change up an outfit. Bring a belt that has enough holes so it can be worn at either the waist or the hip. I generally will back two colors: a brown, black or white belt, all depending on my outfits. Bring at least one piece of statement jewelry that can dress up your looks.

Know how to pack efficiently. The pack in roll method is what I have found to be the most efficient. You can neatly pack items that won't generally wrinkle as much.

Stick to a 25" suitcase or smaller. This will hinder you from over packing. There is really no need for anything bigger unless you are going somewhere where you are required to being bulky items like Iceland or Alaska in the winter or a ski holiday.


Filmed and Edited by: Valerie Fidan / Music by: Yanis Soundress Hypnotized (Dim Sum Remix) / Camera: Olympus E-PL7 with 14-42mm IIR Lens / Luggage: Samsonite Spin Tech Luggage 24" (Similiar item)

Local Bloggers and Influencers Are The Secret for Insider Scoop

A wasted afternoon at a tourist-trap attraction?

Yup, been there; it has happened before.

A clear memory of this was in 2009 on a trip South America; getting stuck in the tourist trap that is La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Known as the birthplace of the tango, La Boca, a one-time shipyard has a famous walkway, El Caminito, where tango dancers perform and artists exhibit their work on this colorful street.

The true grittiness of the neighborhood is lost and now it is essentially a tourist trap, full of people touting for business. It is filled with over priced tourist trinkets and t-shirt heaven; faux tango eatery and photo hustlers are in abundance. The only genuine thing left is Boca fútbol stadium 4 blocks north, with a soccer museum charging $12USD entrance. A wasted afternoon indeed.

I wish we would have been warned that this place was the equivalent to San Francisco's Fisherman's Warf or Khao San Road in Bangkok. If only we would have known a blogger... or local for the inside scoop!

Every major city has bloggers obsessed with what's new and great in their backyard, particularly in regard to restaurants. Using Google Blog Search to find bloggers in whatever city you are visiting is a great place to start. You can also use Instagram by searching in the search or through geo tags.

Bloggers and influencers are a phenomenal resource but do not just read what they are writing: Contact them for personal recommendations. The more specific your request — and the more you flatter them for their insight and wit — the more likely you will be to pique their interest and get a response.  

Being from San Francisco, there is no denying that it is a foodie's mecca of must-try places. One might ask: "What's your favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurant within walking distance of the Hotel Vitale on Mission Street? We are looking for a place with a romantic vibe, ideally because it is our anniversary. We'd be so grateful for your help because you obviously know what's going on in San Francisco!" Bloggers love to provide tips and recommendations on their city!

Have I tried this? Yes!  

I've had plenty of people ask me as well via Instagram, and I've shared some of my insights as well.

While in Hoi An, Vietnam, I got in touch with via Twitter with Jodi from Legal Nomads, connected me with two bloggers that were currently in Hoi An--James from Nomadic Notes and Leif, a freelance travel writer and Lonely Planet author.

Gregg and I got the opportunity to have a Cao Lau dinner and share travel stories with James and Leif, followed by a fruit shake along the river. We also did research online as to what online travel bloggers recommend. Many recommended Ms. Chien's Pho Cao Lau Hu Tieu in the Central Market. The steaming bowls of pho were amazing!

By browsing Instagram, you can also get ideas in where to venture next. So, if you are unsure of where to head to, ask local bloggers!

Cover Image Credit: @amybuglione, Instagram; First published June 25, 2013; Updated August 14, 2017.

Jetting Off For A Vaycay? Here Are 10 Ways To #StayFit When You're #Traveling

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I’ve made exercise a consistent habit in my life. I’m one of those people that consistent has to be moving and doing something. When in San Francisco that meant feeding my SoulCycle addiction 3-4 times per week and keeping balanced with yoga 4-5 times a week, with the occasional throwing in a Bikram session or pilates reformer session. In Portland, boxing, sculpt yoga and megaformer classes have been my go-to. And, even while we traveled around as digital nomads, my husband Gregg and I managed to keep a routine beyond the ridiculous amount of walking we did on any given day. But, I get it…

Keeping fit while traveling can be difficult if not an impossible task to manage. Especially if you are traveling for work, the demands of a busy schedule, rushing around from place to place, can leave you with absolutely no time to keep up your regular exercise program. Staying in shape relies on one major factor-consistency. Consistency in what you eat and consistency in your fitness program will ensure that you keep fit and healthy all the time. But what happens when you are on the move all the time?

Traveling for pleasure is also a difficult time to keep up the fitness regime. A glass of wine and a nice juicy burger seems much more attractive than trying to find yourself a safe and appropriate place to exercise in a foreign city.

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1. HAVE THE RIGHT MINDSET

Working out while traveling can be easy, but only if you have the right mindset. Leaving with only vague ideas about exercise will give you every opportunity to make excuses when exhaustion, stress, and responsibilities start piling up. Instead, plan ahead. Pack workout clothes and shoes and research your destination to learn about your hotel’s gym access or other opportunities to exercise in the area. Exercising doesn’t need to be an elaborate, exhaustive process, especially when you’re on the road. Even doing something simple make a difference for your overall health.

2. SCOPE OUT THE FITNESS SCENE

In almost any location you visit, you’ll be bound to find a yoga studio, a gym or studio. With apps like ClassPass, it makes it easy to find studios near you!

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3. PACK THE RIGHT TOOLS

Obviously you can skip the dumbbells, but there’s plenty of light equipment you can bring with you. Your best bet is a jump rope. You burn the most calories per minute with jump rope than with any other cardio. Other feather-light options to toss in your suitcase are resistance bands, and in a pinch, water bottles make decent hand weights.

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE… BURN + FIRM WITH JUMPROPE
4. STAY ACTIVE

Whether it’s biking around town, walking over taking a cab or going for a hike, I like to stay active. Finding ways to stay active is important. Choosing to walk or bike over taking a cab or metro is great exercise and a great way to explore and see a city. From swimming at the beach or hotel pool to running – the list is endless.

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5. WORKOUT ANYWHERE

With online services like Barre3 or Physice57, they allow you to workout virtually anywhere and maintain a practice from where ever. And, of course, there is Instagram! There are so many fitness babes on there to get workouts from. My favorite is Tara Laferrara of @Lafitara!

6. EXERCISE FIRST THING IN THE MORNING

When we are on vacation or traveling it is even easier to let ourselves give excuses as to why we can’t exercise. This is especially true as we get later in the day; stuff happens, things come up and fun times appear spontaneously.Exercising in the morning will have you feeling unbelievably better about being done with your exercise and ready to move on with the days’ adventures, trust me.

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7. TONE IT UP WITH YOUTUBE

Tone It Up is the brainchild of best friends Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn — two adorable, super-fit trainers (whom I wish I was friends with), started out filming their workouts on the beaches of Southern California and posting them on YouTube. Today, Tone It Up is a multi-million dollar fitness empire that includes everything from a nutrition plan to workout DVDs, to protein powders, to a reality show on Bravo. Staying fit while traveling with Tone It Up is so simple. You can use the videos on YouTube or Subscribe to their newsletter that includes a monthly workout plan — all for free. The best part is that you can work out in the comfort of your hotel room and use furniture as props.

8. STAY MOTIVATED

I’m a big fan of informative and motivating email newsletters. With most of my reading falling under technology, travel, and culture; Mind Body Green is an encouraging resource for health, fitness, and lifestyle content that changes up my regular literary intake. The newsletters offer great advice on diet and nutrition; fitness routines; and lifestyle changes (habit techniques, meditation, and positive thinking). I particularly like this letter because it’s clean and nicely organized, and it’s right to the point which makes for a quick skim when you’ve got a big day of reading, sightseeing and exploring.

9. HOTEL GYM SCENE

When booking your business or holiday accommodation, find out if they have a gym on the premises. Many of the upmarket hotels have a spa and a fully kitted out gym as a standard addition, and you will not have to travel anywhere to fit your exercise regime into your day and keeping fit will be easier than ever, because apart from completely different scenery, you can still keep some of your daily routine intact.

10. STAY COMMITTED

If you are on an extended trip away from your home, stay focused and committed to staying in shape. Try and remember all the hard work that you have put in before you left home and even though you may not be able to continue the high pace of your workouts away from home, try and implement a steady maintenance work out for keeping fit. Take the stairs, avoid the lift, get your taxi to drop you off a few blocks from the office or your hotel and walk the rest of the way. If you are committed, you will find it easier to maintain your focus.

How do you keep fit while traveling?

The Portland Guide: Where To Eat Well in PDX

Lush green, relatively mild temps, Mt. Hood gleaming in the distance make the perfect backdrop for this once sleepy boho town of Portland. One visit to PDX and you'll see why so many around the world love this laid-back place. It's diverse community of Pacific Northwesterners and transplants reflects on its restaurants. One bite, and you'll see why so many flock here and never leave. And, I'm one of those.

Portland has unquestionably stolen a piece of my heart in an odd and humbling way. There is something about Rose City that feels right. Perhaps it is the simplistic way of life, and it’s low key, unpretentiousness. There are no flashy cars or designer duds like how it is back "home" in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, or that feeling of "keeping up." There is that feeling of belonging. It feels like home, what home should feel like.

Before moving to Portland in 2016, in late Sping/early Summer of 2015, my husband Gregg and I spent three months, home-basing in Portland during our digital nomad, global adventure. It was love at first bite. I finally had found a place that got me. It got my food intolerances, and my need for fresh, local, sustainable food. No need to go hunting for special restaurants that only offer those dishes.

Portland is definitely a mecca for foodies, for both indulgent fare and healthy eating. It's a place that you can easily find whatever it is that you are looking for. If there is one thing that I love about Portland, it's the abundance of amazing local produce, healthy eating options and the amazing creativity behind many dishes, drinks, and places.

There is no denying that Portland is a major foodie city. And if you're a vegetarian, vegan, intolerant diner, this is your place. You'll find that nearly every Portland menu has something for everyone with a strong focus on local produce, a lot of creativity and flavor. This Portland guide on Where To Eat Well in PDX are places that I'm always recommending to visitors and are places that I frequent. (Some more than others!) These are my go-to health spots. And, if you're looking for a more indulgent, YOLO kinda guide, don't worry, I'll have that coming up a bit later this month!

The Portland Guide: Where To Eat Well in PDX

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Blossoming Lotus

Blossoming Lotus serves four types of food: vegan, vegetarian, raw, and delicious. This is definitely the place to get a solid vegan brunch. The menu is not extensive but offers up great dishes. ≫ What To Order: The Live Nachos, Vegan Benedict, and Lotus Wrap. www.blpdx.com

Broth Bar

It only makes sense that there's a place in Portland where you can buy ad sip on warm, nourishing broth. Broth Bar offers a delicious experience of wellness to everyone, a rotating selection of 3 different flavors of bone broth each day (grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, grass-fed bison, pastured chicken, pastured turkey, and pastured pork), along with a full range of nutrient dense add-ins such as chicken hearts, lamb tongue, soft boiled duck eggs, miso, fresh turmeric, and medicinal mushrooms. ≫ What To Order: The Chicken bone broth with grated ginger, kelp noodles, steamed duck egg, and tamari are a great combination. But, if you're looking just to sip on a warm bone broth, any of their offerings will hit the spot. www.brothbarsft.com

Canteen

Located in the heart of SE Portland, Canteen is a great spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They serve up organic juices, smoothies, vegan eats in a snug, simple venue with heated patio seating. ≫ What To Order: The Walnut Taco Salad is BOMB AF! The walnut taco salad has walnut crumbles, mixed greens, pico de gallo, avocado curry sauce, carrots, cashew nacho spread, sliced avocado, green onion. Order that and a kombucha on tap for a solid lunch. The Maca & Friends smoothie is ridiculously delicious! It's a blend of banana, almond butter, dates, vanilla, almond milk, maca... Yum! www.canteenpdx.com

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Carioca Bowls

Açai bowls? Yes, please! Carioca Bowls is PDX's original açaí bowl cafe serving healthy blends and savory kitchari. ≫ What To Order: The Carioca bowl with the coconut and blueberry toppings and gluten-free coconut almond granola, and the Purista smoothie with nut butter are damn delicious! www.cariocabowls.com

Eat Well PDX

Eat Well is a new colorful food cart at Tidbit in SE. The menu is pretty simple, and you walk through 4 choices to add to a base of brown rice or pick from their signature bowls. Everything is fresh, lightly seasoned, and will make you feel great after eating it! Plus the owner is very friendly and helpful and they also serve 'booch on tap! What To Order: I usually build my own bowl. But, the Green Machine Bowl with chicken with the green sauce is amazing, and the avocado and black beans balance the kale and rice great. Eat Well PDX on Yelp

Fern Kitchen

Looking for a healthy and tasty brunch or lunch? Look no further, 'cause Fern Kitchen has it all. Farm fresh eggs, local and organic produce, meats, dairy. Plenty of gluten free options too! They also serve up bulletproof coffee and collagen shakes on the menu. ≫ What To Order: Assorted street-tacos on Tuesday's, are a must. Vegetarian Mushroom Hash and Slow Roasted Pork Plate with crispy polenta cakes, braised greens, and salsa verde are two favorites. Bulletproof Coffee with added collagen and the Wonder Woman smoothie made with hemp protein, cinnamon, banana, almond butter, and almond milk are my go-to drinks.www.fernkitchen.com

You Might Be Interested In...≫ Where To Drink The Best Bubble Tea in Portland

Garden Bar

After pigging out in Portland, you'll want to start a cleanse! Garden Bar is great for fast, healthy, convenient salads at 6 different locations around town. Pick from the menu of signature salads or build your own. They also recently added a grain bowl and two sizes to pick from. ≫ What To Order: I love building my own with the Shallot Lime dressing, but if I'm picking from the signature salads, The Bliss Detox and Yucatan are my personal favorites.www.gardenbarpdx.com

Garden Monster

Kill two birds with one stone, healthy eating, and food carts.. Garden Monster's menu has plenty of info indicating what's vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, dairy free, or sugar-free options. ≫ What To Order: Build your own or order a signature salad. The Hercules and King of Clubs are amazing! www.gardenmonsters.net

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Harlow

Serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Harlow's menu has plenty to keep you coming back. There are the expected salads and brown rice/quinoa bowls, but there are also stir-fries, pastas, enchiladas, wraps, and many more unique offerings to round out the list. The special of the day, moreover, is almost always worth ordering. Last time I was there it was a plate-sized burrito that eclipsed anything you could get from Chipotle in both heft and taste. ≫ What To Order: Everything! The Betty Bowl with garlic tahini sauce and the Mercy Blues with cashew hollandaise are two must-orders. www.harlowpdx.com

Kure Juice

Multiple locations | smoothies, bowls, smoothie bowls I'm not going to lie, on any given week, you're bound to find me here. At least at their Downtown location. Kure has multiple locations around town, each with its own unique vibe and personality. ≫ What To Order: Aside from one of everything on the menu, Kure's The Extra Mile smoothie, The Zen Master bowl, and Blue Cashew Milk are my go-to's And, if you're looking for something a bit warmer, the Anytime Nog is going to hit the spot. It's a delicious blend of almond milk, cashew, lucuma, maple syrup, vanilla bean, nutmeg, sea salt that will have you reminiscing of the holidays. www.kurejuicebar.com

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Native Bowl

This cart has some of the most inventive and delicious combinations. They serve the bowls layered, so as you eat them it's like a constant change in flavor and texture. The prices are very reasonable and the portions are enormous! The owners are very nice and food comes up quickly. And, did I mention that Native Bowl is 100% vegan? ≫ What To Order: My favorite is the Broadway Bowl, which is tofu and veggies smothered in a sesame ginger peanut sauce. www.thenativebowl.com

Poa Cafe

Poa Cafe is another favorite. It's a great spot for nutritional smoothies and wholesome food. They are closed on Monday's. ≫ What To Order: The Almond Cocao Smoothie and the Sweet Potato Bowl with added avocado are my go-to's here. www.poacafe.com

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Poke Mon

My second-favorite poke spot in Portland, and my go-to if I'm on the east side. They have a large selection of options, with pre-determined selections and a build-your-own option. Everything tastes quite fresh and the portion sizes are decent. ≫ www.pokemonpdx.com

Prasad

Located inside Yoga Pearl, Prasad is a counter-serve veggie and gluten-free cafe inside serving rice bowls, smoothies, warm drinks and raw food. Prasad does have two locations, one in The Pearl and another on the East side. I've yet to visit the East side location, but have heard it's a gorgeous spot! ≫ What To Order: The vanilla chia pudding made with cashew-walnut mylk, topped with dried fruit, nuts, seeds and sliced banana is delicious! The Utopian Dream Pasta of shredded green papaya, carrots, shredded kale, scallions and broccoli tossed in almond butter pad thai sauce, topped with sliced almonds, mint, cilantro and sesame seeds is a uniquely delicious meal you'll be dreaming about. The Urban Bowl with Avocado Ranch is a personal fave, as is the Jackfruit Wrap. www.prasadpdx.com

Quickfish Poke

Ahh! Quickfish Poke! This is hands down my favorite poke spot in Portland. If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen these gorgeous poke bowls many times. Quickfish Poke is the new kid on the foodie block, and part of Bamboo Sushi family, so you know you'll get extremely fresh, sushi grade fish. ≫ What To Order: The Hawaiian Bowl and Fire Bowl is where it's at! www.quickfishpokebar.com

YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN...≫ The Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Portland

Teote

This Latin American street food spot offers up delicious gluten-free arepas. ≫ What To Order: Vegetarian Arepas Plate and the Teote Bowl that comes with your choice of meat, rice, black beans, fried plantains, queso fresco, verde sauce, plantain sauce, cabbage salad and cilantro. www.teotepdx.com

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The Whole Bowl

Simplicity at its best! This is a great lunch spot that has 7 locations. (There is one even at the Airport.) Fast, filling, and feel-good food! I love this place and even though a bowl is over $7, it is packed to the brim with rice, beans, cheese, veggies, and that delicious sauce. I generally go to the one in The Pearl, since it's blocks away from me, or the one on SE Hawthorne. ≫ What To Order: The menu is simple; two sizes, nine ingredients. Want it gluten free, vegan, etc? Just ask!

Thrive Sauce & Bowls

Another food truck with vegan/vegetarian options at your fingertips? Yes, babe! Depth of flavor that is achieved in each bite, is phenomenal. The freshness of their food is incomparable. Thrive offers up bowls, noodle dishes and salads and plenty to pick from and add-in to throw in. ≫ What To Order: Kashmir Bowl and Mexican Bowls; Winter Cobb Salad and the Vietnamese Sweet-Chile Lemongrass noodle dish with flat rice noodles are my favs here! www.thrivesauceandbowls.com

Verde Cocina en la Perla

Verde Cocina is a Mexican/Tex-mex fusion with a PNW twist. You'll find plenty of great, fresh, local fare at their many locations. Keep in mind, this is a fusion spot, not authentic Mexican food. So, if you are looking for that authentic mole, don't order it here. The Peral location (aka la Perla) is my go to spot. This place is vegan.vegetarian friendly, and the best part is that virtually everything is gluten-free. ≫ What To Order: The Salmon Ceviche, Black Bean Sweet Potato Salad, and Chile Relleno are delicious. Also, order the guacamole with the fresh tortillas!

Wolf & Bear

A vegetarian food cart located on Mississippi Ave in North Portland, SE and in Downtown that is serving up a Middle Eastern inspired menu that includes wraps, salads, and soups. ≫ What To Order: The Falafel Wrap; Sabich, an Iraqi-Jewish traditional breakfast of hummus, amba (mango pickle purée), sliced hard boiled egg, grilled eggplant, diced onion, cucumber & pickles, freshly cracked pepper, parsley and salad greens topped with tahini sauce & olive oil on a warm pita; Out To Lunch, which features labneh, a creamy cheese made from cultured yogurt, gorgonzola crumbles, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, falafel, salad greens, freshly cracked pepper drizzled with tahini sauce and olive oil on a warm pita. www.eatwolfandbears.com

Other Places I've Yet To Try But Have Heard Amazing Things About...

Harvest at The Bindery

KIVA

Laughing Planet

Loving Hut

Papa G’s Vegan Organics

Proper Eats Market & Cafe

The Cultured Caveman

Veggie Grill

BOOM! There you have it. Next week I'll have my Portland Guide on the Best Coffee Shops!

#Motivation: The Places You Will Go

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Oh, the places you will go when you stop with the self-doubt!

A photo posted by Valerie Fidan (@valeriefidan) on

Sometimes we need a little motivation when we've lost focus of out goalds, our dreams, our journey. Losing focus and motivation can be tough, and it happens. Sometimes we can be our own worst critic. We sure know how to block our own dopeness, don’t we?

You can waste so much time by doubting yourself when you really should be using that energy to take risks and focusing on making yourself happy. YOU CAN DO IT! You deserve to get everything that you want out of life; you just have to go out and get it.

Force yourself to take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Life is too short. There's no time for Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda's. AT. ALL. Do what you’ve always wanted to do. That business you’ve wanted to start but were to scared to start. That trip you’ve wanted to take, but through you didn't have enough money to take. That goal you wanted to accomplish but were too scared to start. That starting step to better health but were discouraged each time you caved into cravings. Don’t listen to anyone, DO YOU. You were given with one life; live it!

Give yourself permission to fail. It’s OK to fail from time to time. Failing teaches you valuable lessons in life, and it also builds character and strength. It’s much better to try and fail, then to not try and regret it.

Celebrate yourself! When you accomplish something, celebrate YOU! When you’re feeling great about yourself, celebrate YOU! One thing that we don’t do enough is pat ourselves on the back about our accomplishments. You’ve worked hard, so reward yourself. Heck, throw yourself a party!

Just think.... The places you will go once you start trusting and believing yourself and your journey. 🙌🏻

Where To Drink The Best Bubble Tea in Portland

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Let's just cut to the chase, shall we? Bubble tea is refreshing and downright delicious. And, if you haven't had it, you're probably wondering: What the hell IS bubble tea? Where To Drink The Best Bubble Tea in Portland letsregale.com

Bubble tea, or boba tea, is a Taiwanese treat that made it's way to the states, causing instant fanfare. The bubble tea basics are that it generally contains a combination of the following: tea (green or black), milk (usually soy-based), flavoring (powder or liquid), and a solid (tapioca pearls, fruit chunks, or coconut beads).

The flavor choices alone are confounding, and every time I go to a bubble tea shop, I nearly have an anxiety attack just looking at the menu. The first time I ordered it, I had no clue what to say and ended up shouting "Lychee!" at the counter-person. I was then handed one of the most bizarre yet intriguing drinks I'd ever seen. It was large, cold, off white-ish, and it had a family of black balls at the bottom. I jabbed the cute plastic top with a fat straw and sucked up four balls. Bizarre and vaguely disturbing, but fun and delicious. I was amazed that I enjoyed chewing on a beverage—but I did, a lot—those slimy tapioca balls are amazing!

I love bubble tea. Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, I feel as if there are so many great places. My move to Portland had me searching for some of the best in town. I found plenty of places that make this tasty bev from scratch. (Yep! No powders and artificial sweeteners, and dairy-free, too.) So, if you're in the mood for a spot of bubble tea with flavors and chewy pearls as unique as Portland itself? Check out the seven best bubble tea spots in Portland.

Tea Bar

Where To Drink Bubble Tea in Portland Image Source: Instagram

Tea Bar is the trending bubble tea shop brewing up some of the best tea in town. Unlike traditional boba, the ones here are made without syrups and powders, brewed in-house and aren't overly sweet. And, the best part is all the unique flavors like Lavender and Rose. Tea Bar, 1615 NE Killingsworth St www.townshendstea.com

Best Baguette

Where To Drink Bubble Tea in Portland_1 Image Source: Instagram

Looking for a lot of flavor options? Try Best Baguette where you'll find plenty to pick from, along with unique flavors like Jackfruit, Durian, and Soursop. The bubbles themselves are just the right amount of chewy. For a refreshing refreshment, try the Lychee! It's the perfect amount of sweet and perfect on a warm day. Best Baguette, 8308 SE Powell Blvdwww.townshendstea.com

Tea Chai Te

Where To Drink Bubble Tea in Portland_3 Image Source: Instagram

Tea Chai Te was the first to serve this authentic Taiwanese refreshing beverage. They use green tea, a non-dairy creamer, which can be swapped out for your milk of choice. Try the Sweet Vanilla Mint, coconut or rose flavored bubble tea, these are game changers! Tea Chai Te, 734 NW 23rd Ave www.teachaite.com

Townshend’s Alberta Street Teahouse

Where To Drink Bubble Tea in Portland_7 Image Source: Instagram

A place where the bubble tea is fresh, served cold OR hot, and the tapioca pearls are sweet and al dente, Townshend's Teahouse does it right. Sip on your bubble tea in a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, ambient lighting while savoring each and every sip. Try the raspberry vanilla bubble tea with lychee at one of Townshend's many locations around town. Townshend's Teahouse, Various Locations; www.townshendstea.com

Fat Straw

Where To Drink Bubble Tea in Portland_5 Image Source: Instagram

Located in Portland's Alphabet District, Fat Straw is pouring some tasty bubble tea. The bubble teas here are super tasty and you have plenty of tea flavors to pick from. Bonus points for them being vegan by using coconut milk which tastes pretty amazing. Fat Straw, 806 NW 23rd Ave (Alphabet District); www.fatstrawpdx.com

Red Robe Tea House & Cafe

Where To Drink Bubble Tea in Portland_4 Image Source: Instagram

At Red Robe Tea House they use fresh fruit in their bubble teas, and the tapioca balls are cooked to perfection. Although, if you're looking for the copious amount of flavors to select from, you won't find that here. It's a purist bubble tea, no flavor, just a really good black tea base with perfectly cooked boba pearls. Red Robe Tea House & Cafe, 310 NW Davis St (Old Town/Chinatown); www.redrobeteahouse.com

Karma Cafe

Where To Drink Bubble Tea in Portland_2 Image Source: Instagram

Karma Cafe maybe not the most exciting atmosphere or food, but definitely some of the best bubble tea. The bubble tea here is very authentic, and they aren't made into a smoothie/slushy like many places around town. Try the coconut milk tea with lychee jellies for something sweet. The Green Tea with Boba and Lychee is another must-try. The only regret you'll have is not ordering a large! Karma Cafe, 8220 SE Harrison St (Montavilla) Southeast Portland; www.karmacafepdx.com

Follow along on Instagram for more tips and recipes!

Keep It Clean: Where To Find The Best Smoothie Bowls In Portland

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Ah! Smoothie bowls. These blended healthy treats that generally double as a good-for-you breakfast or power boosting snack. Whether it's packed with leafy greens, bright colored fruit, or creamy avocado, these super-bowls are filling, nutrient-packed, and most importantly, downright delicious. And, in a town where keeping it clean and active is the norm, it's no wonder so many places offer smoothie bowls in Portland. Here are the seven best spots for smoothie bowls and what bowl to order:

Bowl of the Gods at Kure Juice Bar

Photo Credit: Instagram, @megan.ell

This amazing bowl of goodness with an apple juice-based smoothie is topped with gluten-free granola, goji berries, shredded coconut, cinnamon, and fruit. The awesome factor in this, is that Kure Juice Bar uses protein powder and acai in the smoothie for protein-energy power boost, and some bonus nutrients. Kure Juice Bar, Southeast, 4409 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Super Bowl atBula Kava House

Phot Credit: Instagram, @bulakavahouse

Crafted with passion, Bula Kava's smoothie bowls are delicious. The Super Bowl at Bula Kava is a blended base of acai, coconut water, mixed berries, vanilla vegan protein powder, maca, and coconut oil, all topped with Hammer & Tuffy’s granola, banana, bee pollen, coconut flakes, and goji berries. Bula Kava House, 3115 SE Division St.

Great Green at The Bowl & Berry

Photo Credit: Instagram, @always23

The Bowl & Berry's Great Green is a blend of spinach, pineapple, apple and banana, topped with more ananas, GF Honey Hemp Granola™ and Twisted Honey™ and added extras of strawberry and kiwi. The granola and honey add great texture and really enhanced the fruity flavors within the bowl. The Bowl & Berry, 4708 NW Bethany Blvd

Sunrise Bowl at Canteen

Photo Credit: Instagram, @mariassmann

Rise and shine with Canteen's Sunrise Bowl. Tis delicious bowl of granola and blended blueberries, banana, and fresh juiced fuji apples is topped with chopped hazelnuts and fresh fruit. It's now wonder this draws a following and creating new American staples. Caneen, 2816 SE Stark St

Almond Bowl at Sip

Photo Credit: Instagram, @sipjuicecart

As if things couldn't get better, this Almond Bowl from Sip juice cart is on point, and what all of your smoothie bowl dreams are made of. The bowl of pure goodness has organic granola blended with strawberries, banana, almond butter, and almond milk; topped with fresh fruit, chopped almonds, and a dash of cinnamon. Yes, insert the "mmm's" and "yumm's" here. Sip Juice Cart, 3029 SE 21st Ave

SOMA Bowl at Greenleaf Juicing Company

Photo Credit: Insgaram, Full of energy and antioxidants, this SOMA Bowl from Green Leaf Juicing Company is truly a beautiful acai bowl of pure maple syrup, cinnamon, almond butter, kale, blueberry, granola, orange, banana, ice; topped with cacao nibs, cashews, shredded coconut. Greenleaf Juicing Compan - various locations around Portland.

Tropicalia Bowl at Carioca Bowls

Photo Credit: Instagram, Carioca Bowl's is the first acai bowl place serving up beautiful, delicious bowls that you'd find on the beaches in Rio. All bowls are served and topped with fresh ingredients of fruits and superfoods. Order the Tropicalia BowlThe Original açaí blended with raw coconut water, mango, and pineapple. It's a Brazillian vacation in a bowl. Carioca Bowls, 827 NE Alberta St

Do you have a favorite smoothie bowl place in Portland? Share it with us on Instagram by tagging @valeriefidan

Coachella Prep: 2 Week Meal Plan + Workouts

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In just a couple weeks I will head to Indio with thousands of the wristband-clad from all walks of life for a fun Coachella experience. If you're heading to the desert for Coachella Music and Art Festival, I'm sure you've started to prep... outfits, sunnies, and getting crop-top ready. If you're looking for a meal and workout plan for the next two weeks, here's one I've put together. Now, peek in mind, my workout plan varies slightly since I train for kickboxing, boxing and cycle. But, don't worry, these workouts are just the same high intensity as my sweat seshs!

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Repeat with week 2.

Coachella Ready: Food and Staying Hydrated

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This past weekend was the official start of Spring. This means Summer will be here before we know it, but also it means that is the start of Festival season. If you're heading to the desert for Coachella Music and Art Festival, I'm sure you've started to prep... outfits, sunnies, and getting crop-top ready. Coachcella

With the festival about four weeks out, I've decided to put together a relatively comprehensive guide to preparing yourself for Coachella in Indio, California. After getting yourself there and organizing a sweet place to stay, you'll also need to know what you're allowed to bring in and what to expect when you're there. Most of all, be prepared to have three days of excitement and fun!

On Friday, I'll also be posting my 3-week meal plan and workout plan, so feel free to join in even if you aren't going to Coachella. While we are on the subject of food, here's what to keep in mind and what you should know...

coachella food

Nourish yourself prior to entry

First thing first, you have to make sure you nourish yourself, especially if you plan on staying for the entire day. Have a big, delicious breakfast to sustain you through a fair way of the day. Coachella has food but it has food at high prices, often accompanied by ridiculously long queues.

No Outside Food Premitted

While food is not permitted into the grounds, you might be able to hide small energy or granola bars, fruit leather chews or protein powder pouches in your bag but note that these items may be taken from you if found during a bag search.

Need Special Foods?

If you have a medical condition that requires special food or food at certain times, such as diabetes or anything else a doctor would recognize as acceptable, get a letter from your doctor to cover this and show it to security when waiting to enter the venue. They will help store any medication and food in a secure area for diabetics. The names on any medication must match your ID.

V, VG, GF

Yes! Coachella has food vendors that sell gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan food. More available options has been growing in recent years. In 2008 when I first attended, there wasn' many options. But this has changed. last year they even had a juice vendor and granola bar!

Stay hysdrated

No one plans on going to an event and leaving with heat stroke, but it’s easier to do than you’d think. One minute you’re partying, and then the next you start to feel sick due to dehydration. Although you might be able to argue for a refund, due to having wound up in the hospital, why risk having to try when it’s so easy to avoid the problem in the first place. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty. Coachella allows you to bring in empty water bottles to fill up. Bring one and keep it filled!

Are you heading to the desert?

The Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Portland

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If there is one thing that I love about Portland, it's the abundance of amazing local produce, healthy eating options and amazing creativity behind many dishes. The Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Portland letregale.com

There is no denying that Portland is a major foodie city. And if you're a vegetarian, vegan, intolerant diner, this town is your Mecca. You'll find that nearly every Portland menu has something for vegetarians with a strong focus on local produce, a lot of creativity and flavor. Here are 7 of the best Portland restaurants serving up vegetarian fare.

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The Whole Bowl

The motto behind this place is "it's like eating a hug" and that is correct. With many locations throughout the city, The Whole Bowl draws big crowds for its simple rice-and-bean bowls topped with a garlicky sauce and all sorts of other delicious ingredients. Various locations; thewholebowl.com

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The Blossoming Lotus

The Blossoming Lotus in the Llyod District is serving up raw and vegan food fare. Some favorites to order here are the Live nachos and baked Brie. They are packed with flavor, making you forget that they are vegan. 1713 NE 15th Ave, Portland; blpdx.com

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Prasad

Found in an unlikely location, Prasad is a counter-serve vegetarian and gluten-free cafe inside Yoga Pearl. The Portland staple serves up light and fresh fare like rice bowls, smoothies, and raw food. The breakfast menu here is also filled with delicious treats like oatmeal, parfaits, and chia pudding. 925 NW Davis St., Portland; PrasadCuisine.com

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Harlow

....And, if you enjoyed your meal at Prasad, you'll love their sister restaurant Harlow, which is in Southeast. You'll find similar tasty vegetarian fare here as well. 3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland; harlowpdx.com

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Sonny Bowl's

Sonny Bowl's in downtown Portland takes a bowls to a new level. They serve up heaping bowls of tangy, zesty, crunchy chickpeas and thick pieces of kale and other delicious ingredients. Expect a line here, but it's worth the wait! SW 3rd and Washington, Portland

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Natural Selection

Natural Selection offers pan-European influences, featuring vegetables as the main star as entrees. You won't find meat subs or tofu burgers here. The creativity in all of these dishes takes vegetarian dining to a whole new level. 3033 NE Alberta St, Portland; naturalselectionpdx.com

The Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Portland 3

Papa G’s Vegan Organic Deli

Located in Southeast Portland, Papa G’s Vegan Organic Deli offers delicious salads, sandwiches and raw specialties for lunch and dinner. The house nochos with chili are a favorite here. But, whatever you order, you're bound to have a great meal. 2314 SE Division St, Portland

Have you been to any of these spots? Share and tag @valeriefidan in your photos on Instagram!

Where to Eat in Barcelona's Evolving Food Scene

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In a city that prides itself on greasy tapas, potatoes with ketchup (patatas bravas), and bread smothered in tomato and olive oil plates as household staples, Barcelona is a trailblazer in foodie trends. And, like any major city, us Millennials are changing the way little by little. You're starting to see lots of twists on traditional classics. Where to Eat in Barcelona's Evolving Food Sceneletregale.com

After calling Barcelona "home" during the Fall of 2015, I got to try some of the most amazing restaurants. Some places are serving up classic tapas, while others are changing the classic favorites by introducing interesting flavors and different methods of cooking. Here are seven places you need to try in Barcelona.

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Tickets Bar

If there is one place that should be on your list, Ticket's Bar is the one. The Adria brothers, who once owned the famed and now closed El Bulli, opened up Tickets Bar. The dining experience here like no other. It's a combination of Cirque du Solie and Willy Wonka, and probably the closest you'll ever come to tasting El Bulli. The food is out of this world. And, if you can score a reservation here, prepare to have your mind blown.

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Casa Lolea

Everyone knows that Sangria is for tourists in Barcelona. The locals steer clear of this libation. But at Casa Lolea, you'll find locals ordering this fruit- and wine-based drink without hesitation. Pair this with some light tapas and you'll understand the magic of this city.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900

If you can't get a reservation at Tickets Bar, head over to its sister restaurant, Bodega 1900. Bodega is closer to your traditional tapas dishes, but with a few different flares, you'd expect from the Adria brothers. The food is beautifully presented, showcasing the art form and pride in each dish.

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La Pepita

The Gracia neighborhood, La Pepita specializes in their pepitas -- an open-faced tartine with certainly un-Catalan toppers like steak, fried eggs, and foie gras or blood sausage with apple. The place is taking traditional tapas and adding its own spin to things. It's no wonder it's hard to get a table here.

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Bar Mut

A small yet chic gastro-bar on the border between Eixample and Gracia neighborhoods is Bar Mut. It is a modest and unpretentious place to enjoy small plates and excellent wine. The daily menu focuses on seafood. But with whatever you order, be sure to order a Vermut, the signature Catalan fortified wine.

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Bobby Gin's

This trendy Gin bar offers uniquely flavored tapas like shrimps encrusted in a sugary cereal or salmon ceviche. The establishment boasts a "Mad Men"-esque interior in the elegant Gracia neighborhood. Sip on gintonics and nosh on down right amazing bites.

origano

Origano

Authentic Sicilian dishes and flavors? In Spain? Yes! Because after a while you'll be craving places that are less Spanish and more something else, Origano is your best bet. You'll find dishes that you've probably not heard of with food combinations that you might have never imagined. This is one to add to your list of places to try in Barcelona.

Have you eaten at any of these amazing places? Tag @valeriefidan on your foodie adventures on instagram!

In Pursuit of Happiness: Why I Became a Digital Nomad

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If you long to escape your desk job for a business that allows you to travel the world, you’re not alone. There’s a new breed of professionals who’ve merged their bucket lists and careers into a mobile way of life: they are called Digital Nomads. In Pursuit of Happiness Why I Became a Digital Nomad

Last October, my husband Gregg and I joined this new generation of professionals. We skipped renewing our lease in oh-so-expensive San Francisco, sold most of our stuff and stored the remaining few items we own at my folks home to live a location independent lifestyle, along with our two dogs, Teddy a year-old Chihuahua and Zoe a 5-year-old terrier mix rescue. I know that this lifestyle is a special, happy, and fortunate one. One that I don’t take for granted.

Although, we are about four months into this whole new lifestyle, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers, family and friends on the topic of being a digital nomad couple. I thought I’d answer the top questions.

What does ‘Digital Nomad’ exactly mean? First, let’s define the meaning of a ‘Digital Nomad.’ According to Wikipedia, a digital nomad is “someone who leverages technology and the internet to work remotely and more generally conduct their lifestyle in a nomadic manner.” With that defined, my lifestyle is exactly that. I’m lucky enough to work for myself, and can virtually work anywhere in the world — as long as there is one thing: the internet.

In Pursuit of Happiness Why I Became a Digital Nomad 5

Why did you leave your 9-to-5? I understand that leaving a 9-to-5 job for the freedom to work anytime and anywhere may seem like living the dream — but it’s also an intimidating leap of faith. Even for us. My husband and I are in a unique situation, in which we’ve been working for ourselves for many years now. We have a routine already established which made picking up and travelling that much easier. The intimidating part came from second guessing ourselves if this was the best decision we were making. Thus far, it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made. Whether we’re working in San Francisco or a cafe in Kennebunkport or on the beach in Tamarindo, we’re pretty much living the same life. We’re just in a new setting; that’s all.

When did you start your digital nomad journey and why? We officially started our digital nomad journey on October 1, 2014. Our journey truly began 6 months prior with the idea of travelling long term and living in a different country, state, city. Ideally, 2-3 months in each location.

This idea would always come up after returning, love-struck from another trip. We had dreamt of living in Italy and Spain, the “due date” kept getting pushed forward more and more, never really jumping on the idea. It seemed like a fantasy that would never come to fruition.  

In the Spring of 2014, during a hike, we came to the realization that we could virtually work anywhere in the world. We didn't have a job tying us down. No mortgage. No children. So, why were we living an unhappy life in the most expensive area in the United States? San Francisco was zapping our energy, diluting out pocketbooks, and making us some of the most unhappy people. This was hurting our relationship in the long term. Sure, San Francisco/Silicon Valley is "home." But, we didn’t have to live there, deal with awful commuter traffic of this increasingly more congested area, or pay sky-high prices for rent for a teeny-tiny space. ($3k for a one bedroom, no thanks.) After that hike, we decided with our lease coming up in October, that we wouldn’t renew it; instead, we would pursue our passion and travel the world. We would bring work with us on our travels. We had about six months to plan properly and to get our bearings straight.

How does my work sustain my life of travel? I earn my money as a virtual assistant, a business that I started back in 2009, which I’ve built a solid clientele base. In hand with my VA work, I business coach and mentor other aspiring women entrepreneurs. I’ve also been working hard to build my (healthy) food and travel blog, which I do get paid for via Google AdSense, affiliate links, brand endorsements, and sponsored posts. Some months I earn lots of money. Some months I don’t. Gregg earns money from his automotive focused websites that he’s been running for years. Similarly, he relies on Google, affiliate links and selling ads.

How does my life of travel sustain my work? Family, friends and strangers alike have all said it’s nice that we can go on vacation for this long. Let’s get things straight. This is not a holiday. We work and travel at the same time. You cannot do one without the other; work is a constant in our life, as well as, travel. Sure, we may be in a new and exciting place, but we aren’t constantly “vacationing” and in the same right we aren’t working 8-hours straight. It all comes down to balance and structuring your priorities, and allocating the right amount of time for work and travel. If we have big projects or deadlines that need a lot of attention, we’ll find somewhere quiet to do this in whether it is in our rental, a cafe or the beach. If we have a bit more flexibility, we will pursue our travel goals like exploring a city, surfing, yoga or whatever it may be.

#BeWell: 5 Ways To Workout Without The Pain

How do we select our destinations? With so many places to visit, it makes the deciding part difficult. We always discuss where we will head to next, the pro’s and con’s of a place, and what we know about a place. Talking to other travellers helps as well. We picked Costa Rica because we had both been to Costa Rica and had enjoyed it. We wanted to be somewhere warm and where we could hike and experience fun outdoor activities, and that wasn’t nearly as expensive as back home. Costa Rica was the perfect spot.

What was the biggest challenge? Convenience is a black hole for anyone who’s ever wanted more out of life. It takes a very strong minded person or team to take the first plunge into the unknown. Traveling makes you confront your issues head on. No hiding or going around them. There aren’t distractions from being able to place them to the side. Going out of our comfort zones is a big challenge in and of itself. New cultures, languages and basically having no one else to rely on in everyday situations but ourselves. And, of course, a consistent high-speed Internet connection. Being in Costa Rica, we’ve come to terms that long are the days of reliable, fast internet. At least until April when we have to pick up and move on to our next destination, which will most likely be Portland, OR. We’re learning to accept this part of our daily life here.

Yep. This is me and my suitcase. I'm holding everything I'll be traveling with.

What do you want to achieve? We want to live life to the fullest. This is a sort of a world tour of potential places we’d like to settle. And if it ends up not being just one place, but a few that we want to route back to, that’s fine too. Being a digital nomad gives you a great opportunity to devote time to fulfilling personal goals, too, because you have the freedom to change your environment to suit that. New environments help you to be inspired. This year I want to work on developing more professionally, but personally as well. Work on better health, and being an overall happier person.

What are your next destinations? This year so far we’ve planned on staying in Costa Rica until April 8th, then returning back to the States. We’ll most likely stay in North Carolina for a week once we arrive back and head to San Francisco for the remainder of April. The plan is then to head to Portland, Oregon in May to explore the Pacific Northwest. Road Trip across the US over summer. We’ll be in Greece in August, Berlin, Germany in September and Barcelona, Spain in October. We'll conclude our year in Asheville, NC. Our original plan was to head to Barcelona after Costa Rica, but we would need to figure out getting a visa to stay longer than the allotted three months. But we’ll see…We’re still open to ideas for 2015.

Looking back a full year of travel, what has been the greatest challenge? It's challenging being away from home--family and friends. Seeing various events in their lives, and not being able to be there to share these moments is one of the hardest things. This year many of my closest friends got married or had their first child; family members welcomed new additions to the family; the passing of my grandfather and not being able to grieve with family... These are all things that make traveling a challenge. Keeping in touch in every form possible is important: Facebook, text messages, FaceTime and Skype, email, Postcards. Living out of a suitcase is also a challenge, especially when not being properly prepared with the right clothing. After a while, you get tired of wearing the same repeated outfits over and over and over.

Looking back a full year of travel, what have you gained? With travel, you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. A new perspective on life itself. Looking back and reflecting on these last 15 months of non-stop travel has made me realize that time is the most valuable commodity. We've been lucky to have the "time" to pursue our happiness. We've gotten a chance to call many places "home" for a short time: Tamarindo, Costa Rica; Portland, Oregon; Berlin, Germany; Barcelona, Spain; Asheville, North Carolina. We've visited many places, have gotten the chance to experience some interesting things, and create memories around the world. We've gained a greater appreciation towards life, ourselves, our relationship and health.

Originally published on February 10, 2015.  Revised on January 1, 2015.

The Best Places For Gintònics in Barcelona

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In Barcelona, gintònics (gin and tonic) are the drink of choice. They are so serious that they took the "and" out of it. The best way to taste all these gintònics iterations is, of course, at Barcelona’s best gin bars. These are the places to find the perfect gin cocktails.

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1. Bobby Gin

Bobby Gin is an institution for gin cocktails. Though a slogan here reads that the perfect gintònic doesn't exist, you are sure to find the perfect one for you. [/column] [/columns_row]

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2. Banker's Bar

Inside the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona is Banker's Bar. As the name implies, it's a former bank turned bar mixing up some of the best gin cocktails, like the Blackwood Vintage, featuring Mandarin orange and mint leaves, or the Brockman's, which is garnished with berry fruits and yuzu. And, for an extra treat, stop in on a Wednesday night for some jazz. Tip-top G&Ts and live music? Yes, please! [/column] [/columns_row]

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3. Javier de las Muelas's Dry Martini

Enter through a secret door inside Javier de las Muelas's speakeasy restaurant, and if you head to the very back, you'll find a very classy place to sip the perfect gin tonic. Dry Martini is considered the third best gin bar in the world.[/column] [/columns_row]

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4. XIX Bar

Xixbar in the L'Eixample neighborhood offers a pretty amazing selection of gins and tonics. Something like 100 gins and 48 tonics. Don't know where to start? Ask the bartenders and they'll mix up something that suits your fancy.

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5. L'Elephanta

Elephanta is a funky, tiny bar in the Gràcia neighborhood offering about 40-odd gins. Order a gin cocktail, try the Gin of the Month, or pick something from a tasting menu of three mini gin tonics.[/column] [/columns_row]

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6.Ideal Cocktail Bar

Ideal Cocktail Bar stocks 98 gins and 22 tonics. When you want the best, you should expect that your gintònics will be served with organic lemons from the bar's own garden. [/column] [/columns_row]

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7. Ultramarinos

At Ultramarinos, they've got more gins than they have wall space to display them across the bar. You'll find it pretty amazing that they're distilling their own gin—in London, too. This place is so cool that it's also the only bar in town that accepts Bitcoin. [/column] [/columns_row]

 

Have you been to any of these Gin bars? Which one was your favorite?

Where To Experience The Best Coffee Culture in Barcelona

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It seems like our extended stay in Barcelona was long ago, though, it's only been less than two months since returning back. I still day dream of the glistening Barcelonetta, wandering the alleyways of our hipster neighborhood of Gràcia, nibbling on Iberian ham and sipping a Flat White or Cafe con Leche at a local cafe. Where To Experience The Best Coffee Culture in Barcelona

There is no doubt that Barcelona is rich in culture. This rad city of hip professionals and stylish bohemians get up early and stay out late. A life lived among outdoor cafes fits the bill in this timeless, classic city with its fashionable youth. 

It might come as quite a surprise that this city has only just started its coffee revolution and has slowly found its way on to the coffee culture map. There are many cafes in Barcelona popping up, paving the coffee way--many, reminiscent of those West Coast coffee shops back in my hometown of San Francisco and Portland. Here are eight curated places that should be a must-visit for the most discerning coffee nerd.

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1. Nømad Coffee

Nømad Coffee is a trailblazer in the growing coffee culture of Barcelona. This coffee shop places a bold emphasis on exceptional quality and roasting techniques. You'll find beans sourced fair-trade from farmers around the globe.

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2. Onna Coffee

At Onna, they take coffee seriously, and one can see that. You'll find single-origin beans here from faraway places like Costa Rica. A visit here calls for a flat white. And, if you've never had one, Onna is the place for a "first." It' also good to point our that they have great working space for those working remotely. (A double win.)

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3. Skye Coffee

At first glance, Skye Coffee is probably not what you might expect when thinking coffee to-go. This über-hipster, intimate cafe on wheels, housed in a converted 1972 Citroën HY van in the Poblenou neighborhood and serves up a great cup of coffee from local coffee roasters.

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4. Satan's Coffee Corner

If you're a young hipster in the city, Satan's Coffee Corner is unpretentious and has a minimalist appearance. Its modern urban decor, tucked away in the Barrio Gótico, has a loyal following. If you go there, just know that they have two rules: No decaf and no Wi-Fi.

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5. Spice Cafe

At Spice Cafe, people don't just flock here for the excellent coffee, but also for the delicious pastries, like the sought-after Carrot cake, and for a flavorful Chai latte.

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6. Animal Coffee Bar

Animal Coffee Bar serves up a great cup of AeroPress coffee and other frothy and milk-coffee drinks. One sip and you can instantly taste the quality in the beans, which are sourced from local coffee roasters.

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7. Federal Cafe

Federal Cafe is one of the many coffee shops making their mark in Barcelona. Drink a coffee made with fresh, pure milk in the garden or sit inside with those working remotely on their Macs.

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8. Caravelle

Free Wi-Fi, delicious food, quality coffee, friendly service, and a comfortable working space. What more could you want? At Caravelle, they use a La Marzocco machine (the Ferrari of coffee machines) and source their coffee from a small roaster called Right Side.

Did I miss a place that should have made it on the list? Share it with me below!

Where to Find the BEST Bloody Mary's in Asheville

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A loaded Bloody Mary is every bruncher's dream come true. This is especially true if you're curing a hangover of the night before. Snacking on all of the extra fixings while you wait for your actual meal to arrive is a necessity. It’s almost lunch. You didn’t eat breakfast. And you're hungry. Brunch is a serious matter in Asheville, and brunch would be incomplete without a Bloody Mary. Here are 8 of the best Bloody Mary's in town.

The Southern's Bloody Mary Baron Sunday's.

1. The Southern

You can't beat the Bloody Mary Bar at The Southern in downtown Asheville. For $5 you'll get your liquor-base of choice (vodka, tequila or beer), awesome fixings, great music, and an outdoor patio. The only problem? The Bloody Mary bar is only on offered on Sundays, starting at noon. (Hey, sometimes you want a Bloody Mary on a Wednesday, know what I mean?) The Southern, 41 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, 828-251-1777; www.southernkitchenandbar.com

2. The Junction

Sunday brunch at the Junction is a must. And, if you do decide to have brunch there, you have to try the Bloody Mary. It's made from organic tomato-vegetable juice, mixed with their secret recipe of seasonings, Luksusowa Vodka, FireWalker Hot Sauce and plenty of kick in the best you'll ever taste. (That's a bold statement, and I'm sticking to it!) The Junction, 348 Depot St., Asheville, 828-225-3497; thejunctionasheville.com

Bacon anyone?

3. Luella's BBQ

Luella's has a great BLT Bloody Mary. I think it would qualify as deliciously over the top. As the name implies, yes, you're going to get a piece of crisped to perfection bacon. Luella’s Bar-B-Que, 501 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, 828-505-7427

4. Posana

At Posana, their version of the perfect Bloody Mary consists of a house-infused pepper vodka and house mix. It almost has a taste of Sriracha. Posana, 1 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, 828-505-3969; posanarestaurant.com

You Might Also Like... Where to Find the Best Hipster Brunch in Asheville

5. Carmel's Kitchen & Bar

Absolute Peppar vodka, house recipe mary mix, smoky-maple fire pickle garnish are what make up the Bloody Mary's at Carmel's Kitchen. Carmel's Kitchen & Bar, Grove Arcade 1 Page Ave., Asheville; carmelsofasheville.com

6. The Barleycorn

That Bloody Mary with the celery salt rim? Kapow! The Smokehouse Bloody Mary at Barleycorn is full of flavor and will have your mouth watering with joy. The Barleycorn, Asheville; 828-774-5598; thebarleycornpub.com

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Posana's spicy version.

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Carmel's version

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7. Mayfel's

Yet another Bloody Mary bar. (Yasss!) What's not to love about making your Bloody Mary creation? Dress it up as much (or as little) with the fixings and spices. Mayfel’s, 22 College St, Asheville; 828-252-8840; mayfels.net

8. Tupelo's

Garnished with Okra? Yep! Because it wouldn't be the south without Okra. The Bloody Mary's at Tupelo are delicious and popping with flavor. And if a classic BM isn't enough...they also offer a Queen Mary, which is garnished with all the Bloody Mary fixings and a shrimp. Tupelo Honey Cafe, 12 College St., Asheville; 828-255-4863; tupelohoneycafe.com

And, of course, there is a handful of other places around town serving up their versions of the best Bloody Mary's in town. These 8 just happened to be standouts.

Have you found the best Bloody Mary's in Asheville? Share it below!

Insiders Guide To Milos: The Island of Colors

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Stunning beaches, gleaming jeweled-colored waters, dramatic coastal landscapes of colourful and surreal rock formations dotted by vivid primary toned buildings.

These are all things that comprise the island of Milos.

Milos boasts some of the most impressive landscapes of all the Greek islands, including dozens of breathtaking beaches and a spectacular 139-kilometer-long coastline. During our recent trip to Greece, Milos quickly became one of my favourite islands.

There is something so breathtaking about this island. It's magical sunsets and the warm hues vividly reflecting on the whitewashed buildings along the hillside. Like Santorini, it is quintessential Greece, but a much quieter scale.

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Located midway between Athens and Crete, this Greek Island is part of the Western Cyclades. Known as the 'island of colours,’ you’ll quickly see why. The colourful beaches, rocks and waters, all due to the island's volcanic origins.

Milos offers a lot from history to geology and mineral mines to hot spring and wild goats. But, the island is most famously known for being the home the centrepiece of the Louvre in Paris, Venus de Milo. And, for a larger island, it's a quiet and mellow island, unlike Santorini and Mykonos. With no expectations of excitement and just the idea of sitting on a beach all day and reading, you’ll want to set out for enjoying the seclusion.

If you find yourself in the Greek Islands, understand that the best time to visit is Spring, early Summer and Fall. You’ll avoid the heat and crowds of July and August.

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Top Reasons To Go

  • There are 70 beaches on the island.
  • It’s much calmer than its sister islands Santorini and Mykonos.
  • It is a picturesque place with charming pedestrian streets, whitewashed houses and excellent view of Milos Bay.
  • The Archaeological Museum exhibits some interesting artefacts from the excavations around the island as well as a replica of the Venus statue.
  • The most famous beach of the island is located at Sarakiniko (15 minutes drive north of Adamas), where the soft limestone has been carved by wind and water to form a beautiful landscape.
  • The famous cove of Kleftiko (Bandits' Lair) was an old pirates' hideout and now one of the most popular tourist attractions on Milos island.
  • Clear waters, elaborate caves and imposing rock formations. It is located on the south-west tip of the island, only accessible by boat.
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Shortlist

Milos a picturesque place with charming pedestrian streets, whitewashed houses and excellent view of Milos Bay from Plaka, the tiny town at the top of the hill. You’ll most likely start your visit but beach hoping one of the 70 beaches the island has to offer. From Adamas port, many boats set off daily to cruise around the island. These boats visit a large number of beaches which are accessible only by sea, such as Kalamos and Kleftiko, where you can swim in their crystal clear waters.

The most famous beach of the island is located at Sarakiniko (15 minutes drive north of Adamas), where the soft limestone has been carved by wind and water to form a beautiful landscape. The famous cove of Kleftiko (Bandits' Lair) was an old pirates' hideout and now one of the most popular tourist attractions on Milos island. Here you will find clear waters, elaborate caves and imposing rock formations. Located on the south-west tip of the island, it can only be accessible by boat. Agathia beach is isolated but a beautiful colourful beach on the Northwest side of the island. Hivadolimni beach offers Turquoise, shallow waters with many aquatic activities to be enjoyed.

And, whatever you do, don’t miss the sunset from Plaka. Almost anywhere in the village of Plaka, you can find a beautiful sunset, often compared to the beautiful sunsets of Santorini island. Plaka is a very picturesque village so don't miss out on it!

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Things To Do

The Archaeological Museum exhibits some interesting artefacts from the excavations around the island as well as a replica of the Venus statue. Milos Mining Museum will give you a glimpse of this islands mining history.  It is relatively a new museum, all about the miners and geology of Milos island. On a hill in Plaka lies the small Folklore Museum of Milos, a place that guards the age-old traditions of the island. See rare icons and valuable items that range from the Venetian times to modern times at the Ecclesiastical Museum. Visit the Milos Ancient Roman Theatre. The ancient theatre of Milos is nice in terms of architecture and scenic beauty and gives a glimpse of some of its history. Visit Tripiti village, Tripiti. Very picturesque. There is an ancient theatre, catacombs, and windmills in Tripiti. Tripiti is also the site of the discovery of Venus de Milo, probably the most famous statue of a Greek god or goddess. You should visit the traditional little village of Klima. This beautiful village has colored houses that are carved within the rock and are called Syrmata.

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Where To Eat

O Hamos in Adamas for wild goat in "chovoli", local "pitarakia" and all the salads. This restaurant offers a wide choice for vegetarians too. Utopia Cafe for drinks at sunset. Kivotos ton Gefseon for breakfast which consists of a freshly made omelette, Milos pie, chocolate croissant & vanilla cream pastry. They make home-made jams, here. Archontoula for a traditional Greek dinner. Order the moussaka and grilled octopus. To Diporto is another great place for great Greek cuisine.

Did you enjoy this post? Let us know in the comments or by sharing it with the social media links! We’d love to keep giving you travel tips so feel free to subscribe by e-mail. Don’t forget you can follow Let's Regale onfacebook, twitter and instagram.

Food Truck Favorites For Fall Time Dinner

Food trucks have been all the rage in recent years with many big cities like San Francisco, Portland, Austin and New York City making talented cooks and chefs shine. They also allow communities to come together, and sample some great, affordable food fare. Here are 6 classics you can recreate at home.

1. Pizza My Melt

san_francisco_bay_area_food_truck_recipe_melts_my_heart_004 (Behind The Food Cart)

2. Spicy Ramen Noodles

ramen with spicy korean chili dressing_season with spice (Season With Spice)

3. Carne Asada Street Tacos

Carne Asada Baja Street Tacos

(Honest and Tasty)

4. Chicken Shawarma

img_3971-e1341207218333 (The Food Charlatan)

5. Korean Style Tacos with Kogi BBQ Sauce

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6. Arepas

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(Blueapron)

Check out Food Truck Favorites For Fall Time Dinner

by valerie fidan at Mode

This post is sponsored by Mode.com. Thanks for supporting one of Let’s Regale! sponsors! Cover Image Source: Blue Appron, Arepa Recipe.

A Foodie's Guide To Athens

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Athens Travel Guide: A Wonderland of Ruins

Athens: The birthplace of democracy, theater and Western civilization. A wonderland of ruins with stories and tales to tell.

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Wandering the streets of Athens is a dream come true. It’s a wonderland of some sorts that brings a historic thrill and modern excitement to any visitor. Myself included. The energy of the city is like no other. History greets you at nearly every corner, with he Acropolis beaming at a distant from almost everywhere in the city. But, Athens isn’t just white marble and crumbling columns. It’s a modern metropolis with nearly 4 million inhabitants. If Athens were a person, she would have a copy of Plato’s Republic in one hand and a beer or Ouzito (the Greek answer to mojito) in another.

From the narrow, cobblestoned streets of hilly Kolonaki to the hip counterculture nightlife of Exarhia and the singular sight of the changing of the guard in central Syntagma Square to the glistening seaside. Athens offers so much.

Want to see an aerial birds eye view of the Acropolis? Flying Over The Acropolis 

Athens is also the gateway to the sun-drenched Cyclades, defined by white and blue stuck buildings, notorious nightlife, and fabulous beaches. Mix some hangovers with all your history by heading to Mykonos, iOS and Milos. Then check out Santorini’s world-famous sunsets. They are all just a short ferry ride away. Even with all those thousands of years of history Greece remains dynamic, and there’s always something new to discover in this ancient land.

Athens

During the writing of this post, Greece was going through an economic crisis. Dining out and simply just living was a perfect example of a country who’s politicians are running the country to the ground. But do not be mistaken. The countries financial state is not a perfect example of that of its people. This town offered no glimpse of a struggling country, but one rather that is working together to thrive and preserve its natural wonders and culture.

We were graciously welcomed and shown around by a local, who’s hospitality was warm, a warmness that is expected from family. He introduced us to many places enjoyed by true Athenians. The recommendations provided in this guide are based on his and other local folks.

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Athens Shortlist

Places to eat

Save yourself some money by avoiding the generally over-priced poorest packed restaurants in much of the touristy places. Greek food is almost always cheap, generously portioned and stuffed with something cheesy or sugary. It is virtually impossible to go wrong. Most of my meals consisted of cucumber-tomato salad, fresh eggs, figs, a side of tzatziki, Greek yoghurt, some sort of grilled meat and copious amounts of Greek Coffee.

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For some of the best, authentic Greek food, head to Bairaktaris taverna in Monastiraki Square. This family restaurant has been serving up delicious meals since the 19th century. Try the gyros, souvlaki, and moussaka. Thanasis tavern is in old downtown Athens neighborhood of Plaka. It is known for its kebabs on pita with grilled tomato and onions.

Dinner in the Sky Greece for an unforgettable (and adrenaline filled) dining experience as you are harnessed to your seat sky high. Karamanlidika a solid experience. The neighborhood is deceiving. Sample several small dishes of various cured in-house meats and sausages from their inventory. Reservations are highly suggested. Meliartos for one of the best breakfasts in town. The portioner generous. Try the vegetarian food and juice with ginger

Going north in Kifissia there is the small but great tasting tavern Biftekakia & Souvlakia. Order the Pork Gyro and yoghurt with Rose petals. It’s delicious! If fish is more your thing, head north to Lavrio port and taste great food in the local taverns in the port.

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The local coffee – be it traditional Greek coffee, plain filtered coffee or espresso freddo – is stronger, of better quality and cheaper than that served by places like Starbucks. Terra Carpo  for a freddo cappuccino coffee (iced espresso with a frothy milk top.) Reasonably priced, the homemade cereal bars make a great quick bite to eat and keep you moving all day with wholesome ingredients. Cafe Taf pours single-origins to die for, perfectly poured lattes and cappuccinos, lively atmosphere. Zahari & Alati and Off White Coffee Bar are two other great options for an iced coffee or Greek Coffee. Buy some nuts, seeds, and dried fruit from one of the many street cart vendors for about a 1 euro or so.

Dishes To Try in Athens

Steeped in history and lapped by the Mediterranean sea, Greece is home to some of the finest ingredients in the world. Sample them in a traditional Greek dish along with a glass of ouzo. Moussaka. Variations on moussaka are found throughout the Mediterranean. The iconic Greek baked dish is based on layering: sautéed eggplant, minced meat fried pureed tomato, onion, garlic and spices like cinnamon and allspice, a bit of potato, and then a final fluffy topping of cheese and béchamel sauce.

Grilled Octopus. Along harbors, octopus hung out to dry like washing is one of the iconic images of Greece. Grilled or marinated, it makes a fine meze, or as an entree stew it in wine sauce and serve it with pasta.

Souvlaki is still Greece’s favourite fast food, both the gyros and skewered meat versions wrapped in pitta bread, with tomato, onion and lashings of tzatziki. At the taverna, local free-range lamb and pork dominate, though goat is still a favorite.

Things to see

There is no shortage of things to see and do in Athens. Your first stop should undoubtedly be the Acropolis. Arrive early. The gates open at 8 am. Arriving at this time you’ll avoid the crowds, which being to arrive in the bus loads around 9:30 am. You’ll also have a cooler morning to wander and explore. Only the ruins remain today of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The column that has fallen and can still be seen on pieces was brought down during a thunderstorm about a century ago. Visit the Panathenaic Stadium (Panathinaiko Stadio) the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games held in 1896. Temple of Hephaestus, Odeum of Herodes Atticus (Odeion / Irodion), and Tempio di Athena Nike are other ancient sights worth checking out. athens [columns_row width="half"] [column]athens[/column] [column]Athens Travel Guide letsregale.com 25[/column] [/columns_row] athens Athens Travel Guide letsregale.com 8 Athens Travel Guide letsregale.com 7

Check out the Parliament building and the newly-restored Grande Bretagne Hotel. Also, catch the changing of the guards in front of the Parliament every hour on the hour.

Because of its antiquity and influence, Athens is full of museums and galleries. The Acropolis Museum is a must see. It’s right next to the Acropolis. One side of the building covers breathtaking views of the Acropolis. The National Archaeological Museum offers astonishing treasures of Greek antiquity.

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Wander Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio. These charming historic districts at the foot of the Acropolis, with restored 19th-century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants, and picturesque ruins from the city's Roman era. In old Plaka, the historic street of Adrianou Street is a walk through hundreds of gift shops and which will bring you back to the great old days of Athens.

athensHit the beach and take a stroll or jog along Pireos Street, the main road that runs along the coast. Explore Kolonaki, which is an upscale residential area northeast of Syntagma with many cafes, boutiques and galleries. Escape from the scorching Athens sun with a relaxing stroll through The Nation Garden. Explore Monastiraki’s outdoor markets to soak up some local flavor and stock up on food.

Something off the beaten path? Check out the Greek Gastronomy Museum. Dreamt up by four twentysomethings and run by volunteers, the first museum of Greek cuisine is housed in a 150-year-old townhouse just behind the central food market. The admission price includes a half-hour cooking lesson. There's a lovely courtyard cafe, and the restaurant does good-value tasting menus that showcase regional Greek dishes.

athens athens athens Roughly 43 miles south-southeast of Athens, at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula in Greece is Cape Sounion is home to the site of ruins of an ancient Greek temple of Poseidon. It’s worth making the drive for. It's not overly run by tourist, and the sights are incredible. After that hit the nearby beaches and enjoy fresh seafood.

Athens lived up to all of my expectations and more. Once leaving Athens, we set sail to Milos. Another amazing place, and more stories to share soon...

Have you visited Athens?

How To Be A Badass When It Comes To Tipping

Execute the correct tipping custom in a new country can be an etiquette minefield that can pose possible problems--especially when you don't know the local language. Here are five tips to help avoid any sort of awkward situation and be on point. How To Be A Badass When It Comes To Tipping

Be suspicious about what’s on your bill. When it comes to tipping it often pays off to be suspicious about what’s on your bill. You don't know what's included if you can’t speak or read the language. Get some advice from the hotel staff about what is commonly loaded on the bill.

Follow the local lead on tipping. If no one does, then don’t. (I get it, it can be weird not tipping.)If tipping requires paying more on top of than you would at home than not doing so much might place you in an extremely awkward position.

Don't over tip. American’s often over tip in foreign countries. Being an overly generous tipper can have unintended consequences, especially for travelers who come after you. They might be expected to follow your lead.

Have a stash of low-denomination bills ready for doormen, porters, and taxi drivers. Think of it as being part of the price, rather than an optional extra.

Find out from an independent source of truth for how much to tip. If someone has no vested interest in recommending you to tip, then you're more likely to get accurate information.

Related: Use This guide for tipping around the world.

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