Summer Travels!

As I write this post, I am sitting in a little train car on my way from Athens, Greece to Thessaloniki, a city further north. Not originally on our itinerary, we chose to make a one-night stop in this new city as a buffer on our twisted journey to Belgrade, Serbia. A train to Thessaloniki, and two busses between Macedonia and Serbia will do the trick – though more convoluted than our original intention of a singular night train from Athens to Belgrade.

Athens had been kind of a whirlwind for Zac and me. We arrived early in the morning, around 10:00, and were ravenous for breakfast. We dropped our things at our hostel, nearby the main square, and then doubled back to find food. Santorini, as beautiful and farm fresh as it was had little in terms of vegan food (falafel and tomato croquettes) so I was eager to find a vegan-friendly restaurant being in a bustling city. We were quickly surprised and happy to settle on a place called “vegan nation” – aptly named and quite tasty. The much-anticipated experience would have been perfect had two young kids begging for money not approached our table; unbeknownst to either Zac or me, swiped my phone from the table in the process. After a few minutes when I looked down from my food and realized what had happened we spent a few minutes being angry, then twenty minutes traipsing around the 2-block radius of the restaurant in search of the phone-thieves before quickly giving up. We decided the best thing to do would be to cut our losses and just accept that I would need to get a new phone in Greece. We still have over a month of the trip ahead of us and to do that without a phone would’ve been challenging, so our first day in Athens was spent dealing with the aftermath of our breakfast gone awry. Of course we woke up early the next day to see the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Roman Agora, the Theatre of Dionysos, and all of the other historic and ancient sites in Athens. We spent the rest of our time in Athens just enjoying the change of scenery, spending one day reading at a rooftop bar with a stunning view of the main square and the Parthenon.

Athens

Our few days in Athens marks the end of our two week stay in Santorini, a smaller Greek island south east of the mainland. Santorini is a beautiful little island famous to tourists and travelers for its facade of white and blue buildings along the island’s coast. We we’re able to stay in Santorini for two weeks through the worldwide organization of organic farming (WWOOF), a program allowing us to live and work on an organic farm in exchange for free accommodations. Our host farm was a quaint little place in between Karterados and Monolithos – two of santorini’s smaller villages. Nestled right on the water we woke up each morning to walk the four dogs – always accompanied by two strays – and then to help with whatever task needed to be completed until it got to be noon and it was far too hot to continue working outside.

With the rest of the afternoons at our disposal we often spent the first few hours of the days reading and relaxing on the beach until we’d make the trek, often by foot, to Fira. Fira is one of the main parts of Santorini with the famous Caldera adorned with traditional Greek restaurants, shops, and bars. Here you’ll find a beautiful view of the sunset along the cliff’s edge, however you have to stake out your spot lest you be standing behind a few rows of other travelers inching forward to see the sun’s glow cast over the city.

sunset in Fira!

When the walk to Fira became too exhausting at a little over an hour each way, we rented 4×4 motorbikes to help us get around the island. I must say if you visit Santorini I can’t recommend this method of travel enough. The island is small so the motorbikes make all of its corners accessible whereas both the bus system and renting a car present certain impediments to prime site seeing. With the 4×4 you can essentially park anywhere, and the hour walk to Fira diminishes to less than 10 minutes. We took the 4x4s all over: to Fira then to Oía, to Kamari, and to Akrotiri.

The drive from Fira to Oía is a beautiful coastal drive along a winding road. There’s also an 11km walking trail too if you want to really take in the ocean expanse. I took the bus to Oía once: for €1.60 I boarded a coach bus and was terrified for 45 minutes as the bus attempted to traverse the turns and curves of the narrow coastal drive, but if you want to see Oía for a bargain – the bus is not a bad option.

Oía, Santorini

Oía, Santorini

Oía, Santorini

The lighthouse, ruins, and red beach are all sights to see in Akrotiri and would have been inaccessible to us without the 4x4s and had some of the most beautiful views of the island.

Red Beach, Santorini
View at the lighthouse, Akrotiri

Kamari is another beach town on the island that has a lot to offer, including a close-up view of the big mountain that was always visible from our farm. There’s a promenade on the beach with restaurants that set up lounge chairs next to the water. The Main Street also turns into a pedestrian walkway at night making it the perfect place to take a stroll or eat a late dinner in the company of others.

Attempting to sum up almost three weeks in Greece in a short blogpost is a challenging task, yet I hope this gave you a small glimpse into my recent adventures! Onwards and upwards!

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A Vegan Food Diary: New Orleans

Changing something about your lifestyle is always difficult at first, especially when you find yourself away from home. Only two weeks before returning to Tulane, I decided to remove all animal-based products from my diet– meat, fish, dairy, and eggs among others.

Never a fan of diets or dietary fads, I had long snubbed efforts at vegetarianism and veganism by my friends, not seeing the reason or true value behind their personal and ecological commitment. After becoming aware of the devastating effects of animal agriculture on the environment and the wellbeing of all species and communities, I had to make the choice to stop supporting that industry. Since committing to a lifestyle of healthier choices for my body and the environment I’ve come to appreciate all of the true benefits of transitioning to a vegan or “plant-based” diet.

I thought moving back south to New Orleans for the school year would present significant challenges in my quest for cruelty-free, environmentally-sustainable, and nutritious food. I was nervous that eating on a meal plan would restrict my options and leave me with repetitive and bland meal options. Luckily, Tulane’s dining services have an all vegan station and offer a few additional on-campus dining options that tend to have healthier options.

There are abundant vegan restaurants in New Orleans and the options Uptown alone, that cater to vegan diets has continued to amaze me. There are many restaurants that specifically target vegan and vegetarian populations such as Seed or Bearcat Cafe. Some of my favorite spots to sneak away to off-campus to indulge in a flavorful and filling vegan meal are:

Seed

Seed is an entirely vegan restaurant with the mission of creating food sourced from local, organic, and natural ingredients that still have the classic New Orlean’s taste. They have a diverse menu of staple vegan choices like avocado toast and an extensive build-your-own salad section, but they also offer traditional New Orleans dishes made vegan including an eggplant or fried tofu po’boy, and gumbo. My personal favorite dish is the southern-fried Tofu nuggets – a much-needed comfort food in the wake of chicken nuggets. The vegan buffalo sauce is just the cherry on top of the cake! Don’t sleep on the brunch menu – only available on the weekends – it might be your only chance to score some vegan chicken and waffles.

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Avocado Toast with a Tofu Scramble
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Vegan Beignets

Surreys – Uptown

Surrey’s is a classic uptown brunch eatery, notable for its funky atmosphere and art-lined walls. The menu features Latin-inspired breakfasts along with other popular specials. While the menu doesn’t feature exclusively vegan options, they have a great asterisk system working for them; one for vegetarians, two for vegans. What puts surreys on the map in the name of vegan-friendly restaurants is the option to substitute eggs for tofu in any of the original breakfast options at no extra charge. Going vegan, for me at least, has meant substituting a lot of the protein you used to eat for tofu, and you start to become wary quickly at restaurants who unnecessarily charge at your dietary requests (don’t even get me started on almond milk). My classic order is the tofu breakfast plate with a side of avocado mash… 10/10.

Tofu Breakfast Plate at Surrey's Uptown
Tofu Breakfast Plate

Satsuma

If you’ve ever asked a Tulane student what their favorite brunch spot close to campus is, odds are you’ve heard more than one person respond with “Satsuma”. On the corner of Maple and Fern street rests a popular cafe that serves breakfast and lunch, with a paid attention to locally sourced ingredients. Their menu is loaded with healthy options, and vegetarian and vegan choices as well. Once going vegan I had to do away with my classic order, a lunch plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and avocado mash. I try and switch up the vegan options I get, but my favorite and new classic order, is the quinoa market salad (with no cheese), a side of toast with avocado mash because I’m never honestly filled up with just a salad. With all the incredible vegan options available, possibly the best part of going to Satsuma is indulging in their delicious double chocolate chip cookie, which you would never know was vegan if not for the little “V” in the top-left corner of the pastry label. Since I spent the first few weeks of school just trying every vegan option or combination on the menu, here’s a few more photos than just my usual order.

vegan Mexican breakfast plate
Mexican Breakfast Plate (no cheese, no eggs, add tofu)
Asian Tofu Scramble
Asian Tofu Scramble
Vegan Salad
My New Classic – The Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with a side of avocado toast and an orange juice

Dat Dog

Dat Dog is a popular franchise in New Orleans that expands upon the classic hot dog, by offering nine different types of sausages to choose from, plus three vegan ones, and over 30 toppings to mix and match. Popular locations on Freret Street and Frenchman Street draw crowds to the brightly colored oasis with a quick meal that will satisfy your taste buds, and not break the bank. The first time I returned to Dat Dog as a vegan I tried the Spicy Chipotle Dog, but the second time around, I got the Field Roast Italian Dog, and liked that one much better! Perfect for parties with mixed dietary needs, Dat Dog has options for everyone – even if you don’t like hot dogs, they have fish and chicken “dogs” as well. Be sure to stop by the Magazine Street location on the weekends to eat your hot dog amidst an Art Market that pops up in the courtyard of the restaurant each weekend.

Dat Dog VEGAN
Vegan Chipotle Dog

There are dozens of other vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the area to choose from like Hivolt, Slim Goodies Diner, and Poke Loa, which are perfect for dining with your friends, so you don’t have to nervously scan the menu, hoping to find a dish you can eat. I’d love to know; what’s the best restaurant for a vegan meal in your area?