Experience | Tracy Arm Fjord

leave a comment: (1) comments

Monday, August 13, 2018

"It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world."- Mary Oliver

Tracy Arm Fjord | I had never heard of a fjord until researching our Alaskan vacation. A fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier. We awoke on our third morning to find ourselves cruising through Tracy Arm Fjord, one of the most magnificent and breath-taking fjords of Alaska. Since it was late June, the bodies of land were scattered with beautiful and luscious greenery and trees. The rock appeared smooth and aged, as though the snow and ice had polished it over thousands of years. There were patches of snow and ice on the cliffs, as well as in the water. One of the most surprising aspects of Tracy Arm is that the temperature is rather mild, rather than super cold, which causes the fog to rise and settle among the mountains.

I was the first in my family to wake up on the morning of Tracy Arm. I went up to the deck at about 6 am while it was still cold and ate breakfast alone. It was difficult to find a table since many others were taking in the beauty and astonishing views. However, I eventually settled at a table with another lone breakfaster. The exquisiteness and natural refinement of the cliffs in which we were cruising though were magnificent and heart-stirring. My brain could not even begin to comprehend the magnitude and beauty of Tracy Arm, but I did my very best to take in and appreciate it as much as possible. 

In the few hours that we were in the presence of nature's true beauty and wonder, life felt both so much bigger than we can ever know but also so much simpler. Who are we and our problems compared to these cliffs and glaciers and sea green water and trees? We're not special, we are spectators of this elegant, illustrious sight. Although I am not a religious person, I would categorize my time in Tracy Arm as a religious experience and life-changing. It was one of two times during our Alaskan vacation where I felt a shift in my life and consciousness, as if I was one with nature and the Earth. In that moment, Alaska became my first true love and I wanted to escape into the mountains forever.


Experience | Ketchikan, Alaska: Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

leave a comment: (1) comments

Monday, August 6, 2018

"When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."
-The Peace of Wild Things, Wendell Berry

Oh Alaska, you beautiful, exquisite oasis. 

Prior to visiting Alaska, I had two points of reference. First, the I Love Lucy episode when the gang travels up to Alaska to look at perspective property and, inevitably, Lucy gets herself into a pickle with celebrity, Red Skelton. Second, I knew of the beauty and and alluring nature of Alaska from reading and watching Into the Wild. But, as we all know, reading and watching is a lot different than actually experiencing.

Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary | My family and I went on a seven day roundtrip cruise from Seattle to Alaska. The first stop was Ketchikan. We chose the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary walking tour, which lasted about three hours. The walk was very moderate and did not require many steep hills. The tour guide walked us through the sanctuary on a dirt path. Although some sunshine did break through the tree canopy, the walk was mostly shaded due to the large, luscious trees.

During the walk, we learned about the different trees. Hemlock can be distinguished from other trees due to the bark looking like bacon, or ham, and remembered as hamlock. The Sitka tree has bark that looks like potato chips. Skunk cabbage is also very prominent in the Alaskan rainforest and is sought after by bears for its natural laxative properties, which is necessary after their long hibernation. We also spotted berries and banana slugs along the way. Banana slugs are said to give anyone who licks them good luck, so, of course, my brother licked one.

One of the most interesting aspects of this rainforest walk was learning about the ecosystem. Since the weather is very damp and cool in Alaska, the forests do not experience fires. Forest fires are nature's way of getting rid of old/dead trees that may have fallen to the ground. However, since the trees are not removed either by nature or human, nature uses them as new ground for growing trees and other plants. Because trees are beginning their growth above ground, the roots must reach down very far before finding the earth. This pattern of growth creates a very interesting and symbiotic relationship among the trees and plant life. 

Another interesting part of the walk was seeing bear claw marks on the trees. Bears often climb trees to hide and hunt. Mama bears also tell their baby bears to climb trees while they go out and find food. Although we never saw bears during our walk, it was very evident that they were close by.

Once we finished our walk through the rainforest sanctuary, we were brought out to a pier across a body of water. We were so excited to see bald eagles sunbathing among the water. Even the employees got out their phones to take pictures since it was such a rare occasion to see so many eagles at once.

Next, we visited the Raptor Center. This center rehabilitates raptors that have been injured and are unable to return to the wild. We were also invited into the totem pole workshop of Wayne Hewson. He shared his process with us, as well as his history in the art of totem pole making. Growing up, being a totem pole carver was illegal and Natives were forced to subdue their cultural heritage. Luckily, Wayne was able to begin his journey as a carver in his 30's where he was an apprentice for about 10 years before working on his own. He is such a soft spoken, gentle man with a great gift. My favorite totem pole on display was the story of the mosquito. However, not all totem poles convey a story or legend.

Overall, I really loved this magical walk in the Alaskan Rainforest Sanctuary and would recommend it as an educational and breathtaking way to learn about Alaska's ecosystems.


Travel | Burlington, VT: Eats, Sights, + Stay

leave a comment: (1) comments

Monday, May 28, 2018

"I will not play at tug o' war. I'd rather play at hug o' war, where everyone hugs instead of tugs, where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug, where everyone kisses, and everyone grins, and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins."- Shel Silverstein

New England is so close to Pennsylvania, yet so far away. It is definitely an area I wish to explore as much as possible and take every opportunity to visit. Luckily, such an opportunity recently presented itself! My best friend, Lora, graduated from University of Vermont and I was lucky enough to spend graduation weekend with her and her family. Although a short trip in which in mostly rained, we were able to experience Vermont's spring beauty and eat food from two awesome vegan/vegetarian restaurants.


Pingala Cafe | Pingala Cafe is a food truck-inspired vegan cafe. Lora's brother, who is also vegan, has gotten takeout from this restaurant on several occasions and it was the perfect option for us since we had to coordinate takeout for 12 people. I decided to order two small dishes and one large dish.

The first item I ate were the fresh rolls, which are summer rolls with rice noodles, pickled vegetables, mixed greens and a peanut dipping sauce. They were incredible. The dish came with two rolls which were pretty large and substantial for an appetizer and, in my perfect world, every meal would include peanut sauce.

My plan was to eat the Buddha-ful Bowl for my main course and then the Broccoli Bites if I was still hungry, or save it for the seven hour car ride the next day. However, I ended up being very grateful for the Broccoli Bites because I could not stomach the Buddha-ful Bowl. The description sounded great: Coconut brown rice with steamed kale, broccoli, roasted sweet potato puree, braised tempeh, ginger-pickled vegetables, sunflower seed crunch, topped with peanut sauce. I do not know what I found so repulsive about it, but I could barely eat anything other than the vegetables at the top. I honestly cannot remember ever not being able to eat a meal at a restaurant before, so this was a new experience for me.  Luckily, Lora's brother was up for the challenge of eating the rest and he enjoyed it.

The Broccoli Bites were really delicious, as well. I didn't taste much peanut sauce, but I enjoyed the simplicity of the meal and the pickled vegetables at the top.

I definitely want to revisit Pingala Cafe since the majority of the menu is very appealing to me. I'm slightly bummed I chose the Buddha-ful Bowl over the Kale Salad, but now I know for next time.


Revolution Kitchen | I had found this vegetarian restaurant during one of my epic Yelp searches and was extremely excited to check it out. Although Lora's brother was unable to join us (he had not yet arrived in town), we dined with her father and step-mother on Friday night. The restaurant itself is pretty small and narrow with the bar and kitchen in the front (you can see the food being prepared) and seating in the back. The walls are decorated with primitive/finger paintings and Buddha-inspired art. As for the food, I am not exaggerating when I say this was one of the most delicious meals I have ever experienced. We all loved our meals.

For an appetizer, I ordered the Vietnamese Salad Rolls, which contained rice noodles, mango, lettuce, and herbs and had a peanut dipping sauce. This dish was incredible. The rolls were light but substantial and absolutely delicious. Also, it came with peanut sauce which took my tastebuds to the next level.

My main course was the Revolution Tacos which had grilled sweet potato, oyster mushrooms, maple chipotle slaw, avocado, and salsa, and was served with cuban black beans and rice. The flavors and textures merged together in such a way I have never experienced before. I wanted to savor every bite but had to control myself from not eating the tacos in three bites. I will crave them for the rest of my life. Revolution Kitchen's Revolution Tacos are the equivalent to Sushi Samba's sushi. Life changing.

We dined at Revolution Kitchen on Friday night and had originally planned on getting takeout from there on Saturday, too. However, due to graduation weekend, they didn't have the capacity to also make takeout orders. If we did get takeout, I would have ordered the exact same thing.



Lake Champlain | Lora says you know you are in Burlington when wherever you look, you can see Lake Champlain. The lake is very large and spans New York, Vermont, and Quebec. There are tons of activities one can enjoy while being close to the lake including a stroll on the walking path beside it or a trip to the beach. Since we were only able to spend a little time by the lake, we took a brief walk and drive by the beach. I love its expansiveness, the mountains behind it, and the sailboats gliding on the water. It is extremely picturesque. Next time we go, Lora and I definitely plan on spending more time by Lake Champlain.



Townplace Suites Marriot | We stayed in this hotel, which is located in Williston, a quick 10 minutes away from Burlington. We stayed in a Studio, which has a queen bed, couch, desk, television, kitchen area with a full sized refrigerator, and a bathroom with a bathtub. Every morning, continental breakfast is offered which includes fruit salad, individual apples and bananas, cereal, waffles, muffins, eggs, coffee, and tea. There is also a small refrigerator with bottle juices, milk, and Silk soymilk in both very vanilla and chocolate varieties. Coffee, tea, and ice water are offered all day.

Overall, I really liked this hotel and have no complaints. The room was clean, as was the rest of the building. They offered very big bananas (which are my favorite) and the coffee was really good (although, not as good as Seattle coffee).

When we got takeout on Saturday night, we ate in the continental breakfast area and received no sign of disapproval from the staff, even though three rambunctious children were running around the majority of the time. It's a great family place.


Experience | Disneyland Park

leave a comment: 2

Monday, April 2, 2018

"Even miracles take a little time."- Fairy Godmother, Cinderella

On my last day in Anaheim, I had the opportunity to spend some time in Disneyland Park. Disneyland Park is the original park, before Disney World existed. It first opened on July 17, 1955, which is over 60 years ago! My mom has faint memories of visiting Disneyland when she was only four, so it was fun to visit with her stories engrained in her mind. 

I honestly wasn't expecting too much from Disneyland, with the thought that it is both small and antiquated. However, I had so much fun and wished our adventure lasted longer than 4.5 hours.

Disneyland Park | When we first entered Disneyland Park, we walked through Main Street, USA, which is essentially what you'd expect. The long entranceway and streets are lined with old fashioned shops and eateries. This themed land takes you back to the 1950's, or how I imagine town centers to look during that time period. It is very quaint and leads into New Orleans Square. New Orleans Square has the most gorgeous Southern architecture. There are several cafes with outdoor seating.

Not knowing where to go next, we decided to hop on the Disneyland Railroad. I was very tired from working all weekend and this ride allowed me the respite I needed to regroup and rest. The Disneyland Railroad stops at a few locations, allowing visitors to hop on and off. We circled the entire park, seeing the Grand Canyon and Primeval World- Land of the Dinosaurs. It was really fun! We were dropped back off at New Orleans Square and decided to start exploring rides.

Our first real ride was the Haunted Mansion. We waited about 20 minutes in a fast paced line and fairly quickly made it into the building. After gathering a large group into a small room and giving a brief background story, we were seated in a small "gloomy doom buggy" and taken on a tour of the Haunted Mansion. The visuals were actually incredibly impressive for a ride created 50+ years ago.

Next, we made our way through Critter Country and happened upon The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride. For some reason, I could not tear myself away from the adorable facade of the indoor ride and decided I needed to experience it. Luckily, this ride's wait was only about 20 minutes, as well. Once in the ride, you are seated in an oversized beehive and glide through some of the most popular scenes from Winnie the Pooh accompanied by classic Pooh songs. I was happy that my favorite Winnie the Pooh story, "A Blustery Day" was included. The imagery is bright and colorful, and brings you to life.

After the burst of energy Winnie provided, we walked through Fantasyland. I was so excited to see the Sleeping Beauty Castle, as Sleeping Beauty is my most favorite Disney Princess. (Fun fact, I cut my own bangs when I was four in a closet to look like her.) The castle is much smaller than I imagined, but still very beautiful. Along side of the castle is the Snow White fountain, which my mom remembered from when she was little, so it was a nice little discovery.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland was an experience that I could not convince myself to walk away from. The gigantic red rock mountain rollercoaster looked so fun that the 45 minute line didn't seem excessive. I am so glad that we waited because I had such a blast. The rollercoaster had high drops and quick turns and I exclaimed "Weeeeeeeeeee" pretty much the entire time. I think this ride was my favorite.

Wanting to experience one more ride, we settled on Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in Tomorrowland. Finding Nemo is one of my most favorite Disney movies and it was the only ride in Tomorrowland that didn't have an hour+ wait time. You are packed into a small submarine with a large group of people in very small seats. The submarine is partially submerged and you are taken through the lake/pond. Each seat has a window from which you view the miscellaneous adventures and characters from Finding Nemo. This ride was my least favorite. It lasts way too long (it felt like 15 minutes), especially in such a small space with so many people. However, I got my greatest belly laugh in this ride when the announcer came over the loudspeaker and said that there was to be no smoking (including vaping!) during the ride.

After the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, we had to make our way back to Downtown Disney to grab a quick dinner before heading to the airport. Luckily, Disneyland has a Monorail! I first discovered my love of the Monorail while in Seattle, so I was extremely excited when I saw Disneyland had a Monorail, as well. It makes two stops: Disneyland's Tomorrowland and Downtown Disney. We did have to wait about 10-15 minutes to get on the Monorail, which was a bit of a bummer since we were in a hurry. Additionally, when we did get on the Monorail, they didn't fully utilize all of the seats available and many people were left waiting for the next ride. However, once we were on, the ride took us from Tomorrowland to Downtown Disney in about two minutes. Although it was a beautiful day and would have been nice to walk, I love its convenience. In my opinion, every city should have a Monorail.

Overall, I really loved Disneyland Park. I wish we had a full day to explore, rather than 4.5 hours. However, I think you could definitely explore the entire park if you utilized an entire day, which is good, considering the high price of $117-$135 (dependent on peak) per ticket, per day.


Travel | Anaheim, CA

leave a comment: (1) comments

Monday, March 26, 2018

"It's up to you how far you'll go. If you don't try, you'll never know."- Merlin, Sword in the Stone

Earlier this month, I traveled to Anaheim, CA for 3.5 days. I had been to Anaheim once before, but wanted to explore a bit more than my last stay. When traveling for work, it can be difficult to find the time to venture out of the hotel and have meaningful experiences, other than work itself. Below is my recount of the food I ate and place I stayed, as well as a fun little place to walk around.


Thuyen Vien | I found this vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant on Yelp. Since I'm a huge fan of Asian cuisine, I was super excited to give this place a try. It also got really wonderful reviews, so I was expecting a really great experience.

The day we planned on dining at Thuyen Vien, we called and asked for reservations. They were super laid back and forgot to even ask for our name, which led us to believe getting a table would be extremely easy. However, when we entered the restaurant, we were totally caught off guard. It is a very small restaurant packed with tables and chairs. However, since it is so small, there aren't very many tables. The restaurant seats probably 20 people total. Additionally, all the tables were occupied, despite making reservations. Once we let them know we had made reservations, though, they were able to clear a table of two out quickly.

Dinner was very good. I got the Mango Salad as an appetizer and the Thai Vegetable Curry as my meal. My dinner companion got the Garden Green Salad as an appetizer and Pho as a main course. When placing our orders, I informed the server that I was gluten-free, so she left and got another employee (perhaps the boss?) to take our orders. Although I specified that I wanted the eggplant version of the curry, I received the pumpkin version. But, I was so hungry that I didn't care. Our food was prepared and served quickly and we both enjoyed our dishes.

The restaurant continued to get packed and there were no tables available. When my dining companion finished her meal, the server gave us our check and we paid. However, they could not split our check (which is what we had planned since I was traveling for work) and you cannot use a credit card for orders less that $25. After we paid, I was still wrapping up my meal as well as waiting for an Uber to arrive and did not want to wait outside in the rain. The servers kept pacing back and forth in front of our table, hoping we would leave so that they could clear it for another party of two. Eventually we left when the Uber was a couple minutes away.

The food at Thuyen Vien is flavorful and delicious, portion sizes are generous, and price is extremely reasonable. But, I don't think I'd ever choose to eat here again. I felt very uncomfortable and rushed during the entire experience. This restaurant is not a relaxing environment, especially after a long day of working. I also don't like the stipulations for paying (not being able to split a check, minimum on credit card payments).


Tortilla Jos | I went to Tortilla Jos last time I was in Anaheim and was extremely excited to return. I love this restaurant. Although it is not vegan or gluten-free, there are tons of options on the menu and most things can be made vegan and/or gluten-free. They make their own gluten-free corn tortillas in house (which are so good!) and are gluten-free.

We ate at this restaurant three times in four days which goes to show how I feel about the food and experience. The restaurant is clean and open, the staff is nice, the food is delicious, and the environment is relaxing. On warmer nights, it is nice to dine out on their patio or balcony, which have heaters above the tables.

All three times, I ordered the Portobello Mushroom Fajitias, which comes with a sizzling plate of vegetables, a plate of cilantro rice, black beans, and tomato salsa, and three fresh, warm corn tortillas. The food is consistently delicious every time. My dining companion ordered different menu items each night and enjoyed her meal every time.

The food is a little more on the expensive side ($20 for my meal and $18 for a salad), but the quality and quantity is worth it. Since it is located in Downtown Disney, it does get a bit crowded at meal times and you may have to wait for a table, but our wait was never longer than 15-20 minutes. They actually ask for your phone number and text you when your table is ready, which is nice, so you are able to walk around.


Downtown Disney | Without tickets to Disneyland, you are able to enter Downtown Disney. To enter, you must first go through a very thorough security line where they go through your bags, pockets, wallets, etc. and walk through a metal detector. You definitely feel safe in Downtown Disney, which is good, considering the crowd. 

Downtown Disney is basically a long shopping mall that leads to Disneyland. Its length is probably about a mile. Along the way, there are many stores, including the Lego store, Sephora, and a very large Disney store. There are also a very of restaurants such as two Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Tortilla Jos, and a New Orleans-style restaurant. Kiosks are set up all around selling Disney and/or California keepsakes, as well as snacks like popcorn and corndogs.

Disney music plays over loudspeakers, but not in an obnoxious way. It's decorated very adorably, as you would suspect for Downtown Disney.

I really love Downtown Disney and we walked around every evening for a bit. It's fun, lively, nostalgic, and smells sweetly fragrant.


Disneyland Hotel | I've stayed at Disneyland Hotel and really love it. The staff is super friendly, the rooms are decorated adorably, and it is very clean. The hotel has three towers for visitors to stay. I've been in both the Adventure Tour and Frontier Tour. The rooms remain consistent in appearance and cleanliness.

The hotel has a 24 hour gym, which is small but equipped with a variety of dumbbells, benches, stability balls, medicine balls, cardio machines, and a full wall mirror.

There is no continental breakfast available, but a few options for breakfast if you want to eat at the hotel. Every morning, I walked to their coffee house, which is next to the gym, and ordered a fruit plate. Although it is expensive (about $8), the plate has about three pieces each of pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, and watermelon, and a small bunch of red grapes. I supplemented this fruit plate with a venti coffee and large banana from Starbucks in Downtown Disney.

There is no complimentary water for the room. However, there are a few gift shops and the coffee house, which sells bottles of water for about $4 each.

Although the Disneyland Hotel does not provide breakfast, water, etc., it is a really nice hotel in which you feel very comfortable and well taken care of as a guest. I really enjoy the atmosphere, cleanliness, and friendliness of staff.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

© the vegan chickpea All rights reserved . Design by Blog Milk Powered by Blogger