There is nothing like a week at home with three kids to get you craving a vacation. We survived(and enjoyed) President’s Week with a bit of a stay-cation. We went to a few museums and had dates with friends. I put just the right amount of activity on the calendar to keep the kids busy enough that they wanted to go to sleep every night! Last week I wrote about getting away to somewhere warm. When I started to think about it, I realized some of my best vacations have been in places where it is cold and there is lots of snow on the ground.
I didn’t learn how to ski until I was in my 20’s. Shortly after that I moved to Denver, Colorado to go to Johnson and Wales for Culinary School. I learned a lot at school but also learned that I love the mountains and specifically skiing! I don’t actually have the genetic make up of a good skier… I get cold really easily and I also get altitude sickness. Once I figured out a few tricks to get over those obstacles, I really started to LOVE skiing. I would take trips up to the mountains and ski for the morning before heading into work for the dinner shift. It was a great! My first trip with my husband was to Vail, Colorado; making it very fitting that part of our honeymoon would be spent on the slopes in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
To this day, one of my all-time favorite vacations was to a little town in northern Italy called Selva Val Gardena. My husband and I were living in London at that time and knew we wanted to go skiing in the Dolomites in Italy. I found Hotel Laurin through some online reviews and our trip was set. We would fly into Venice, Italy and then drive up to the mountains for a few days. We would end our trip walking and boating through Venice. It all sounded very romantic and it was, once we finally arrived at the hotel. We hit some snow on the way up, to Selva Val Gardena; which was awesome in the context of skiing but not awesome in the context of driving a tiny car up a mountain. Long story short, we were installing chains on our tires in the dark on a Saturday night in some small town in Italy. The good news is we finally made it up and over the mountain and arrived at the hotel safe and sound.
The rest of the trip was amazing. The Hotel Laurin was just what it advertised, small and charming. The owners were very hands on taking care of our needs from espresso in the morning to cocktails before dinner and a night cap before bed. You could book the hotel with dinners included but being the foodies that we are we decided not to do that as we wanted to explore other options. It turns out that was a mistake, the food at the Hotel Laurin was amazing and plentiful and the only other dining options in the town are other hotels. When your hotel has an amazing restaurant you don’t want to venture out too much. The next year when we returned we took all of our dinners at the hotel. The food was a mix of Italian, Swiss and German. It wasn’t fancy but it was just what you needed after a day on the snow. I still remember an evening where we had fondue… meat fondue. They specially prepared a broth for us which we used to cook different meats. It was amazing. The trip was so great we returned the following winter to the same hotel. I hope someday to return to Hotel Laurin with all of our children in tow but it will be a few years before they are all able to ski.
Winter holidays in the snow are just as fun as those in the sun. Food plays a big part in any vacation I take and the food on the mountains in Selva Val Gardena, and most mountains in Europe, surpasses the expectations set by the cafeteria style eateries you find on the mountains in the states. I’ll probably fall asleep tonight dreaming of the mountains, skiing and fondue. I’ll wake up to reality here in NYC and maybe with some snow on the ground.
This time of the year I start to long for an escape from the
winter in New York City; especially with the mixed bag of weather we have been
having. Should it really go from 20 degrees
to 50 degrees in less than 24 hours and then right back down again? And how
about that snow/sleet/rain we had this week?
That is enough to make anyone want to catch the next flight out of town
(that is once the airports are back on schedule). My first instinct is to head somewhere warm
and sunny but I also think about going somewhere with lots of white snow (more
on that next week).
One of my favorite warm weather destinations this time of the year is Florida. I know it doesn’t sound exotic but it is called the sunshine state for a reason. Florida is actually very big from top to bottom so you really have your choice of environments when you visit. Back in my grade school days, my dad loved taking us to a destination and then piling everyone in the car and exploring what it had to offer. I remember taking a trip to Florida one spring break. We must have started in Orlando because I remember spending a few days enjoying Mickey Mouse and all that the parks had to offer. Then we piled in the car and headed south. We stopped in the Everglades leaving me with memories of the great outdoors. I vividly remember staying in some sort of cabin with lots of Mosquitos outside and the urgency to close the screen door quickly so they would remain outside. From there we continued south to the Florida Keys. We all got outfitted with snorkeling gear and used it to look at fish and shipwrecks in the ocean as well as the bottom of the pool. Swimming is one of those activities that can be entertaining forever, huh? I still love to hang out in a pool for hours on end. We finished our trip with a visit to Key West. It isn’t the same when you’re under 21 but still pretty cool. Frozen drinks are fun at any age even without the alcohol. Then we had a long drive back up to Orlando before heading back to the cold in Indiana.
Another one of my favorite memories of Florida is visiting my grandparents at their condo in Naples. My sisters and I would fly down without our parents and spend a long weekend just with our grandparents. Talk about getting spoiled. Beyond all of the excitement in their retirement community of golf, swimming pools and tennis we would venture to the beach and of course go on shopping trip. I remember eating at a place called The Dock and Michelbob’s was the place for ribs either before or after mini golf. The best part about Naples is that my dad now has a condo there. I hope my children will get to create the same memories with their grandparents that I was able to.
So whether you are off to a sunny destination this holiday weekend or already live in one(Lucky You), soak up some sunshine for me. I’ll be here in NYC enjoying whatever mother nature throws our way.
Finding vegan food while traveling is not always easy, especially when traveling to areas of the country that rely heavily on meat and dairy products. I was in Roanoke, Virginia during the 4th of July week, and finding vegan food at restaurants and markets was really quite challenging. Aside from a beautiful array of fresh produce at roadside farm stands, fresh and delicious vegan food was nearly nonexistent. Thankfully I’m a chef, and I enjoy a challenge, so I was able to whip up quick and delicious meals on the go, to be enjoyed at the hotel, on the road, or before going out to dinner with my family. It’s a little awkward sitting food-less at a table of dining individuals, but when the majority of restaurants have no vegan options, there are only so many french fries one can consume in a weeks time, so it’s better to just pass. With a little planning and willpower, it’s really no effort at all to create beautiful and nutrient dense vegan meals with little to no kitchen equipment in a hotel room — you just need to be prepared. When shopping, remember balance, knowing that each of your meals should contain greens, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Choose fruits and veggies that need no kitchen equipment to prep for consumption. If craving melon, opt for the pre-cut and packaged options — not something I would normally advocate for, but when you’re in a bind, it’s okay to use. If preparing a salad, like mentioned with the melon above, chose pre-cut and packaged produce that can simply be added to salad greens. A simple vinaigrette can be made with vinegar — like red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, whisked with a fork in a plastic bowl. Fresh fruit is always a delicious add-in to a salad, so feel free to add whichever fruit you desire, and maybe add some roasted nuts and a protein rich canned bean like chickpeas, and boom, an easy and delicious lunch or dinner. For breakfast, I enjoyed either avocado toast with roasted red pepper hummus and a side of fresh fruit, toast with raw almond butter, a smear of coconut yogurt, and fresh berries, or a bottled organic protein shake. The moral of the story is, whether traveling near or far, finding vegan food at restaurants may be a challenge, but creating beautiful food doesn’t have to be. With a little imagination and preparation, you’ll have an amazing meal in minutes flat.