Many of you will know that I set off on quite the adventure in May to the USA to meet, visit, stay with a number of wonderful people who I have virtually met along my blogging journey – fellow bloggers, vegan facebookers, instagrammers, cookbook authors, recipe testers, and just wonderful people in the very kind and supportive online vegan community. I didn’t get to meet them all unfortunately, funds and furries at home limited that, plus the fact that you guys are global. But, I did get to meet some of my nearest and dearest friends, those who I have connected with in a capacity beyond just veganism or blogging, those who inspire me and I look up to and who make my days a little brighter. I covered 2 states (Utah and California) and at least 20 cities and counties from Salk Lake City to Springdale, San Francisco to San Diego. It was a trip of a lifetime. Here’s a whistle-stop view:
So I arrived in Salt Lake City on the Monday night with a little extra baggage than I had planned – a bladder infection. Wonderful Somer met me at the airport armed with essential oils, vitamin C, painkillers and bicarbonate of soda. After arriving at her beautiful home in Lehi, she freshly prepared for me the best vegan pizza that ever existed and a pretty pink smoothie which definitely filled the void in my tummy after hours flying with nothing but a smoothie from Jamba Juice at Philadelphia airport.
Tuesday got off to a great start with a breakfast treat of fresh from the oven cinnamon rolls, a green smoothie and delicious granola from Vegan Finger Foods Cookbook. We lunched at Oh Mai (which is my ultimate favourite place that I ate at the entire trip) with friends then stopped in Whole Foods where I tried my first kombucha. We then dined with another friend at Sages’s Cafe ‘all you can eat’ pizza night (!) and even shared a peanut butter brownie before walking it off through the beautiful heart of Mormonism in SLC, Temple Square.
Wednesday included some good old retail therapy in the Gap outlet before a delicious Mexican tortilla salad for lunch at Costa Vida along with the best horchata ever. We then went to the super fun Museum of Ancient Life and hung out with some dinosaur fossils then Somer made my special request mint choc chip ice cream which made my life complete.
Friday was an eventful day where we set off on our 280 mile road trip from Salt Lake City to Lydia’s Canyon, Glendale to stay with Somer’s parents. We made coconut bacon for the road trip along beautiful terrain and arrived where I got to hang out with pussy cats, beautiful chickens and dogs along with all sorts of wildlife like lizards and chipmunks. We had a delicious dinner of spiced lentils, homemade chapatti and salad.
Friday began with tofu scramble before heading out to Kanab to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary located in the most incredible picturesque Angel Canyon. We had a buffet lunch which included the best ranch dressing I’ve ever tasted and delicious vegan banana bread. We met lots of long term residents, those awaiting rehoming and local wildlife such as turkeys before heading back home for some family classics such as Somer’s dads’ Cowboy Beans and her brother Abe’s fried potatoes.
Sunday was a visit to Zion National Park and surrounding areas, it was so beautiful and like nothing I’d ever seen before. We were lucky enough to get a good view of bighorn sheep, effortlessly strolling along the rocky desert mountains. We snacked on Nutter Butters and ice lollies before getting home to a feast of transformed leftovers – leftover spiced lentils in tacos and cowboy beans topped with coconut bacon, finished with fruit salad doused in coconut milk. We then finished our day of fun snuggled up watching Free Birds.
Monday began with an amazing breakfast of tofu scramble, fruit salad, Somer’s mum’s cornmeal pancakes with homemade almond coconut butter and coconut yoghurt. We then set off through Red Canyon, stopped for a salad bar lunch before arriving at Bryce Canyon (which was my favourite of the sites) where we saw wild prairie dogs and the most beautiful rock formations that ever did exist. We then set off home to Salt Lake ahead of my flight out to San Francisco the following morning. I tried an apple beer on the road and we grabbed a last-minute-before-they-closed dinner at Mountain West Burrito where I tried Daiya cheese for the first time (which was gross) and delicious fizzy Sangria.
So come Tuesday I had flown across the beautiful Salt Lake and into Long Beach to end up in San Francisco where I met a wonderful friend, Eve. We talked and talked as we wondered the streets of San Francisco before heading out to Loving Hut for a #vegansofig meet up organised by lovely Eve which was the most warming (and delicious) welcome I could have wished for. We ate great food, had great laughs and enjoyed the company.
Wednesday was a jam packed day full of fabulous fun! Eve and I walked into Golden Gate Park where we went into a rainforest in the Academy of Science and the Living Roof before heading over to the De Young Museum to see a view of San Francisco like no other from the observation tower. We lunched at the Plant Cafe where I experienced the best veggie burger I have ever eaten in over 17 years as a vegetarian. We walked along the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge where I (excitedly) saw Alcatraz island. We then went to the windiest street in the world before heading home where we had a great time cooking together and made a colourful salad and hummus soup.
Thursday was a special day. We began with a delicious breakfast of the Chocolate Covered Blues Smoothie from the Vedged Out Green Smoothie Challenge and oatmeal with homemade hazelnut milk and hemp hearts. We then set off across the bay over to Lafayette where we went to our friend Jenn’s house for a wonderful lunch also with another friend Tami and her husband, Tom. It was a really beautiful experience and we dined in style with stunning food. Jenn made us the Shiitake Banh Mi from Isa Does It, crudites, roasted almonds and hummus, fresh watermelon juice, iced tea and incredible mini chocolate cakes for dessert with chocolate sauce and mint choc chip ice cream (which is my all time favourite); Tami and Tom brought along a delicious quinoa salad and Eve a colourful fruit salad so we feasted like nobody’s business. We then snuggled with some kittens Jenn was fostering before Eve and I set off into Berkeley to visit the amazing Republic of V where we bought some vegan treats and I stocked up on things to take home such as Mac and Chreese and vegan peanut butter cups (yum). We headed home to make our last dinner together of Dreena Burton’s Mac-Oh, Geez! with soy and ginger braised broccoli – an untypical combination that really worked!
Come Friday I was on another airplane to land in Orange County where I was met by the glowingly beautiful Celeste and her husband Paul. It was maybe a year or more ago where I told Celeste how I wished I could be nearer to meet her and she said ‘if you ever get out here, you can stay with me’. I dreamed of the possibility but never thought it would actually become real. We met through her dog, Mambo (my new pal) after she posted inquiring about vegetarianism in dogs. There’s just always been something about Celeste’s blog that I love so much, it’s uplifting and inspiring and just fun, I love how varied the content is. In real life, Celeste is just as I imagined, good fun, bright and just so lovely.
So we met at the airport and then the adventure began. We went for lunch at Seabirds Kitchen (one of the last things Eve said to me before I left SF was to try and go there!) where I had BBQ jackfruit sliders – my first slider and my first try of jackfruit. It was the best start to a great visit. We left there on to the Camp, an incredible funky-eco spot like nowhere I have ever seen before, even the car parking spaces were inspiring. We headed home before Celeste and I took Mambo around the local stunning resort where we caught up on my trip so far and chatted in the sunshine. We then ate a beautiful meal prepared by Celeste; we nibbled on cherries and bread with Whole Foods freshly ground almond butter, An Unrefined Vegan’s cream cheese and my first try of Earth Balance before digging in to gorgeous lasagne and Cheery Cherry Kale Salad. We walked this off across a part of Laguna Beach at picturesque sunset before curling up with Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies, Trader Joe’s Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with fudge sauce and pecans and watching vegucated (for me, the first time).
On Saturday, Celeste and Paul became the ultimate tour guides of LA, starting with a vegan latte at the Hedgehog coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard. We drove deep into the Hollywood hills to see the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign and have a look at The Observatory. We then went to Hollywood Boulevard to the Hollywood Walk of Fame before lunching at Real Food Daily. We shared the best nachos ever and I then fell madly in love with Reuben sandwiches and washed it down with kale and cucumber lemonade which was so refreshing. After this we headed to Beverley Hills which was beautiful, we admired some art sculptures and walked in Julia Roberts’ shoes along Rodeo Drive. To top it all off, we stopped via Native Foods on the way home to pick up an Oatmeal Creme Pie to bring home and add to the remaining cookies and ice cream.
Sunday began with a mocha at Crank and Grind at Dana Point before heading to San Clemente where I had my first Acai bowl at Active Culture and loved it. We then got on the road to San Diego where we met Celeste’s sister, Michelle and her wife, Linda and went to the Old Globe theatre in Balboa Park to see Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike which was hilariously funny. After this we headed to University Heights to Muzita Bistro where we had the most amazing Ethiopian meal ever.
Monday began with an iced latte from Crank and Grind before trying to find me some breakfast in Dana Point but the servers understanding of vegan as gluten free did not fill me with confidence so we moved on to Active Culture at Laguna beach instead for my second acai bowl and a green smoothie. We wandered around the funky shops at Laguna Beach and grabbed an afternoon smoothie and my first try of wheatgrass at Nekter. It tasted, unsurprisingly, like grass. We then discovered that the few vegan friendly restaurant options were either closed down or passed opening hours so we found ourselves explaining our dietary needs to a very nice and accommodating Italian chef at Romeo Cucina who served us a plate of delicious marinated and grilled vegetables and pizza without cheese for Celeste and I and a gnocchi with tomato sauce for Paul. It was here that Celeste tried her first espresso, and was not impressed.
We then went to Whole Foods which was quite the experience, I bought a load of Whole Foods bags with city names on and then got to the check out and there was a pile of little ones with owls on and I bought six, I was so excited that they were so cheap. I was also on the wrong side of the check out. Silly English person. It was a laugh. We got (So Delicious?) ice creams and Uncle Eddies peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies to indulge in when we got home.
Tuesday began with a wonderful oatmeal breakfast prepared by Celeste with all sorts of delicious toppings like coconut yoghurt, mango and pecans and a big cuddle with Mambo before setting off to LAX to return to Salt Lake City. I was met by Somer and kids as well as Annie which was wonderful. So we went and raided Trader Joe’s and Whole Food’s (of course) where I used my strongest willpower to resist anything I didn’t NEED, WANT SO BAD I MIGHT DIE WITHOUT IT, OR COULD GET BACK HOME. I was happy with my purchases which included Field Roast sausages which we froze so they’d be chilled throughout the long journey home.
We also indulged our taste-buds at City Cakes where we tried a whole range of vegan and gluten free delights such as soft serve ice cream, glazed donuts, peanut butter and chocolate bars and cupcakes. All before we met all the wonderful people I had had the pleasure to meet in Salt Lake City for a very memorable and special farewell meal at O’Falafel Etc. with fantastic company and the best falafel sandwich. Ever.
Then, after an evening cramming stuff into my suitcase and an early night, we set off as the sun rose the following morning and I began my journey home to England where I suffered miserable jetlag whilst baking a bakery’s worth for a charity bake sale. Reality check.
So, a very short and sweet thank you to all who made my Vegan Tour and trip of a lifetime such a precious experience. You all touched my life in some way that I will forever cherish and I can’t wait to see you all again. To my readers, thank you for all of your support, well wishes and for being patient with me whilst I compiled this post.