Category Archives: Vegan eats

Puna, Lower, Pahoa Town

Since the 1980s, when I first visited this district of Hawaii Island, Lower Puna has been famous in my mind for various things: spectacular coastline; impenetrable jungle; soaking in magma-heated hot ponds nestled in naturally-formed lava basins; murder; heroin; domestic violence; lava flowing into the ocean; lava flowing into houses; hippies; slackers; movers and shakers; yoga; hurricanes and fires. It had been a while since I visited; after all, Lower Puna has No Outlet, so to speak, unless one wishes to drive into the water or lava, neither of which I have any interest in.

The first time I visit Pahoa (1983?) it was a quaint, former plantation town that had been overtaken by New Agers, Mother Earth types, and lots of tie-dye.  It was somewhat rundown, but it had its charms, certainly.  When I visited in 2015, I thought Yikes! It was the worst I’d seen.  After the lava invaded in 2014, news outlet camera crews did, too (the little town made it on CNN).  Schools were closed, and students bused to other systems.  Access to health care and food sources was an issue; Civil Defense issued daily updates.  Power lines were reinforced with (hopefully) lava-proof bases.  There was a collective breath-holding by thousands. The town looked haggard and depressed; so did its residents.  I thought It’s all over for this place; maybe that’s not such a bad thing . . . But I discovered yesterday, that is not the case. The lava stopped just outside of town! And Pahoa is rebounding, in ways I both approve (small businesses are thriving) and don’t (national drug store chains and fast food outlets, and a new mall – why???).

I had plans to spend more time exploring the area, but I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen for ages, and we set off for the Lava Tree State Park to catch up before our respective evening plans (hers was a rave; mine was watching a belly dance performance). Here is my first photographic report of the area.  Much more to come.

Speaking of small businesses, if you require something sweet, vegan, organic, gluten-free and yummy while cruising Pahoa’s main drag, check out Nicoco Hawaiian Gelato.  Hardworking entrepreneurs Ashley and Sean epitomize all that is good about The New Pahoa.IMG_6081

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Live all you can.  It’s a mistake not to.

Villa Romana del Casale and a fabulous lunch with a comtessa

Today we visited the remains of the very large Villa Romana del Casale, rumored to be the home of a wealthy Greek trader. All of the floors throughout the extensive residence are mosaics of phantasmagorical scenes (and athletes in bikinis!). It was discovered by a farmer 60 years ago; can you imagine finding something like this in your backyard? Most likely it had been covered over by landslide in 1300s; this fortunate-for-us event left the place intact for our modern eyes.

After the villa visit, we drove through the middle of Sicily, with its abundant agriculture, Mt. Etna looming ever in the distance. We had a marvelous lunch at the working farm of an extremely gracious, but dispossessed, Italian royal. Writing this hours later in Syracuse, I can’t imagine putting one more morsel of food or one more drop of alcohol in my body.

Lastly, we drove to the next hotel in Ortygia, the historical center of and tiny separate  island off Syracuse.

Here are some photos:

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Live all all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Agrigento

Left Trapani in the morning and drove southeast across the island towards Agrigento, taking in the expansive, beautiful and diverse island scenery, including olive groves and vineyards.

Agrigento is home of the Valley of the Temples, the remnants of a once thriving Greek city of 200,000. I can’t tell you how many times “Ozymandias” popped into my head: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Dinner was excellent: grilled veggies, risotto, spaghetti wrapped with eggplant slices, a vegetable stew, finished off with lemon granita.

HP fans: did you catch the photo of the purple-flowered mandrake plant in the last post?

Here are some photos:

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Mozia and salt

Today we toured the island of Mozia and its ancient archeological site, and had another fabulous Mediterranean (and vegetarian!) luncheon while sitting on stone chairs at stone tables, cicadas chirping in the background. Wonderful.

Mainland Trapani is famous for its still-used salt flats, and I bought some salt to use at home, as a reminder of this lovely day. I also heard about a Thailand and Cambodia tour in January I’d love to go on . . .

Here are some photos:

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live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Soft Day in Antibes

Took a walk through the harbor and along the coast beside the star-shaped fort. Had a good vegan lunch at a tiny and inspiring café. Did laundry. Made train reservations. Checked in to upcoming flight. Sat on le petit balcon and read The New Yorker online. Made pasta with roasted vegetables. Drank wine.

The weather is gorgeous. An autumn day in the south of France.

Yup.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Toulouse, reconsidered

I need a good meal! Oh kale wrap, where are you? I had lunch today at a place I had imagined would provide said good meal, but nope. What I got instead was a tiny portion of a zero-flavor brothy squash mix on a bed of uncooked rice. Oh, also included was a very large bill (blowing my entire day’s food rationing money). What the heck? It’s these kinds of places that give vegans a bad name. Uh oh, I’m fussing again. Okay, here is something good about the restaurant: I saw this quote on the wall: Grow with the flow.

The morning started off great with an exciting laundry adventure. I found one launderette near the hotel, a tiny, dirty place that would not accept large bills. The second place I found was slightly larger and slightly less dirty, but it featured a disheveled man who spoke loudly to no one I could see. I asked for his help, but he was not feeling generous today, and eventually I thought perhaps the best plan was to leave. So, I went to the door to do that. But wait, how do you open the door? I pushed and pulled and tried to slide it. I smashed any buttons I found nearby. Loud Talker to No One was relishing my situation and had no intention of ending his glee at my inability to get out the door. Here I was, a well-educated person stuck inside a French launderette with a possibly unstable person, but a person who was nonetheless probably able to open the door. Eventually, I did figure it out, of course, otherwise I would not be here writing. It was a good lesson in realizing we all have different skills.

Next I searched for laundry soap. But wait, of all the boxes and bottles on the shelf, which was for laundry? Eventually, I sorted that out, and returned to the original tiny dirty launderette, which now also included a menacingly barking dog on the other side of a thin door. But wait! How to pay and get the washer going? There’s no coin slot! Using a mysterious laundromat was not one of my french lessons! Yes I did eventually get my laundry done, and the cool part I had hoped would happen was that I made friends with the men working on the road outside the launderette. They were super sweet and concerned about me getting in and out, even though I did not actually want to leave the place; I just wanted to hide from the cruel French world. One man, quite possibly the calmest road worker ever, began trying to talk to me. He speaks Arabic, and when I said the few Arabic words I know, a friendship was born! Who’d a thunk it? I knew something cool would happen. Au revoir, madame! they all called when I left.

After the laundry escapade I eventually regained my courage to go out in the world, and I started cruising town. At one point I noticed a woman taking a photo of a scene I would have missed. Over the next half hour, we kept finding ourselves taking the same picture, and we began talking. One of her questions for me: are you German? Once again I was thrilled at not being an obvious American. When she did learn I was from the US, our photography conversation ended and she went off on Trump.

Okay, enough blabbing. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Toulouse, visiting its landmarks and back streets (and now I know why parts of NOLA are called the French Quarter). This is not the trip I expected, but it’s all good. Here are some photos.

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Toulouse – yikes!

I now fully get why the author of the French guidebook I’m using did not even mention Toulouse in his book. It’s crowded, dirty, sketchy, aggressive . . . Yeah, not the kind of place I normally seek out in my travels. Originally I had planned to be here only one night just to start the Midi Canal walk, but those plans changed, and now I’m stuck here for three nights; however, I will soldier on and make the best of it, of course – who knows, maybe something really cool will happen. My hotel is bordering on squalid, so I’ll definitely be out and about as much as possible. While searching for dinner earlier I spotted some interesting architecture in the old town I’d like to photograph, as well as lots of narrow meandering streets to get lost in (wait, I did already that today).

Now that I’ve got the fussing out of the way, the ride here on the TGV was awesome! The train goes 300 kilometers per hour! It was well designed, spacious, comfortable, stylish, clean, on time, super quiet, and included free wifi. They even had two vegan menu items! And I got to romanticize about the beautiful farmland, vineyards, spires and stately chateaux outside the window for the entire four hour trip. (Handy news you can use: I bought my train ticket online a while ago for €32, and when I checked on the price a couple of days ago, it was €137. Buy early!)

After getting lost after arriving, I had Tibetan momos for dinner. First time. And quite possibly the last. Speaking of food, I don’t usually use the words ‘kale’ and ‘yummy’ in the same sentence, but the boxed organic kale wrap I picked up at the San Francisco airport for my flight to Paris was super yummy. The company label was Farm to Flight, a switch up from the farm to table movement; how cool is that for those of us of the vegan persuasion? I expected a huge selection of vegan food in California, but tasty vegan food at an airport? That’s a breakthrough.

Although the Chartres grocery store my gracious host Valerié took me to had a huge assortment of gorgeous vegetables, traditional French cuisine is very much not vegan inclined. For example, the glass cheese case in the store held at least 100 feet/30 meters of beautiful whole cheeses. And the meat section . . . Well, there were lots of body parts, including several lolling tongues. Perhaps some day French master cheese makers will jump on the nut cheese bandwagon; it could happen! (Stranger things have, and trust me, cheese made with nut milk as opposed to cow milk can be superb.) Unfortunately, the one vegan-friendly restaurant in Chartres was closed the days I was there. However, the breakfasts at the Chartres B&B were large and lovely thanks to the accommodation of Valerié. If you’re coming this way, vegan or not, and prefer to stay in non-touristy areas as I do, consider Au 10 Chambres d’Hôtes (au10chartres@gmail.com).

For the rest of my time in France, I expect to be eating a lot of food in ‘hold the cheese and eggs’ mode, as opposed to food made specifically vegan. It’s a trade off: getting to hear spoken French all the time but having to search for tasty food. In California, there were billions of delicious vegan options, but not one bonjour, ben oui, or bien sûr. (However, I must say that during the time I have been writing this entry, I have learned that French does not improve the sound of arguments or children’s cries; it’s official: the various shouting matches I’ve been privy to have pushed this hotel deeply across the line to official squalordom.)

Only one (bragging rights) photo today, unless you’d like to see the photo I had to take of the stopped up bath tub to show the hotel clerk because my French is not good enough to explain such a scenario over the phone.

Bonsoir.