Sunday, February 22, 2015


We took a taxi from our Amman hotel to the airport to pick up our rental car. We decided it would be easiest to rent from the airport which is outside of the city. We had reserved a Mazda 3 but ended up with a type we've never heard of; Ssangyong! The trip to Petra was easy, with easy to access gas stations (but always keep a full tank as stations are harder to find in smaller areas), well maintained highways, good signage and GPS on my phone. It's surreal to drive down the highway and just see camels hanging out. We had a few dogs try to chase us but happily we didn't run any over!

Once we arrived in Petra we found our hotel, Movenpick, right near the gates to Petra. Our room was nice with a large patio. The lobby reminded me of a luxurious hotel of a bygone era. Because it is off season there is a lot less tourists, and the cooler temperatures are perfect for hiking.

On the advice of a Land Lopers article we decided against going to the Petra at night event. Instead, We purchased a 2 day pass at a cost of 55 Jordan Dinar per person. After the first night we were up early before the crowds to explore Petra. This turned out to be a great plan, we enjoyed the hike and sights with hardly any other tourists. The hike begins immediately with many ancient carvings, cave dwellings and tombs. As you pass through the Siq you begin to glimpse the magnificent Treasury Building, which is actually a mausoleum. We opted to hike up to The Monastery, actually a tomb, as well. The hike is worth it! At the top we rested with fresh fruit juice, friendly cats and enjoyed the view. Food, drinks and trinkets are available in spots scattered through out Petra. The second day we hiked up to another mountain top and took in the view of the amphitheatre.

After three nights in Petra we jumped in the rental car to head to our next destination near the Dead Sea. The trip should have been about three hours but took us five thanks to getting lost in the town of Tafila. After trying to find the turn off four times, going down a one way the wrong way, and traversing across the centre of town three times we had to concede that google maps was as confused as us. The alleged turn off existed only in GPS. Of course all this heavy GPS use left us with an almost depleted iPhone battery and still a long way to go to our destination. We stopped in town and after possibly illegal parking in a bus terminal, a lot of sign language, and two purchases we found a car charging adapter for the cigarette lighter. (The cars built in USB charger is apparently just for show). A local pointed us in the general direction to get back on the right route. We drove out of town and took the turn off he had described. We figured at least it seemed to be heading towards the Dead Sea, in all honesty we were driving more by "feel" at this point. We started to traverse an extremely winding road, carved into the side of a mountain, that dropped alarmingly in elevation as we drove. As we got to the bottom GPS caught up and we found ourselves headed in the right direction on the highway adjacent to the Dead Sea. From there we easily found out next stop; Evason Ma'an Hotsprings.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Adventures in Amman

We are in Amman for two nights. We started our first morning with a walk to downtown Amman. On the way we found a cellular dealer and picked up a SIM card so we can easily stay connected and most importantly use GPS. 

We walked over 12kms and thanks to the hilly landscape the equivalent of 34 flights of stairs. We checked out the impressive Roman ruins amphitheatre built in 138-161 AD.

We also toured the fantastic Jordan Automobile Museum. The collection was amazing containing cars we've never seen elsewhere.

Now we are off to Petra in our rental car!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

More Calgary Vegan Delights!

Heart's Choices recently opened up their new Vegan Thai Cafe and grocery. They have fantastic meals, including my favourite dish; satay skewers with a peanut sauce. As well they have vegan cakes and desserts from Purple Pastry Chef and vegan chocolate bars from Sjaak's and Go Max Go Foods. In addition they sell hand crafted, local made, cultured cashew based vegan cheese from Slim Feast.

My regular go to restaurant is the very tasty all vegetarian (and mostly vegan) Tamarind Vietnamese Grill & Noodle House. Favourite dishes include: Deep fried wonton, Crispy spring rolls, Tamarind house special noodle soup (Pho Dac Biet), and Pad thai. Generous portions, affordable prices and lovely staff!

My favourite coffee shop, Phil and Sebastian, often have a vegan muffin or cake donut at the Mission and Marda Loop locations I frequent. Speaking of donuts, did you know you can also advance order vegan doughnuts from Jelly Modern Doughnuts? Make a great birthday surprise sure to delight the vegan in your life!

Fresh pressed juices have exploded on the scene in Calgary with many different purveyors. I've enjoyed Well Juicery (also found at Phil and Sebastian) and my all time favourite Cru Juice. (Cru also has an amazing nut based milk with vanilla bean.) Cru Juice is available from their store front and various spots around town including the little neighbourhood bodega and caterer Our Daily Brett. Our Daily Brett does a great job remembering the vegans and often has a section of vegan friendly salads, dips, soups and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery breads. They make a new daily meal to go, which is sometimes a vegan friendly offering. Sign up on their website to get their weekly menu.

And you are looking for gluten free and vegan baking look no further than Baked From the Heart! I admit I rarely like GF baking but their moist, tasty mini cupcakes topped with piles of rich icing have swayed me! I'm glad I had some GF guests coming over to have an excuse to check out their wares.

Oh and a little bonus Justin's Dark Peanut Butter Cups are now available at Starbucks!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Calgary Vegan Cheese Options!

I've done a few other posts on vegan finds in Calgary and area including; Alberta's First Vegan Store (Cochrane)Top 10 Vegan Eats in Calgary, & Vegan Field Trip Around Calgary. Well a lot has happened since these posts so it's time for an update. My first update is all about Vegan Cheese!

There are some great new vegan cheese options available in Calgary. A long standing favourite is the soft cashew based vegan cheese by Basic Roots, made locally in Calgary, and available at Community Natural Foods.

A new comer is the lovely Banff based Glowfood, available in dishes at Nourish Bistro, also in Banff, or by special order. Also check out Glowfood on their Facebook page. Glowfood cheeses are beautiful with unique and complex flavours. A wonderful local product. From their website "At Glowfood, we use only the best organic, raw tree nuts to make our vegan cheeses. The spices, herbs, fruits, vegetables and salts that WOW your taste buds are hand selected.  Sourcing quality is really important to us. All we are saying is that . . . we did some research and we ate a lot of cheese. Our quest for greatness spanned far and wide across the continent and this is what we have to show for it. The proof is in the details. Dairy Free. Soy Free. Gluten Free. GMO Free. Bad for you free. Artisan vegan cheese. Cultured in small batches. Hand-crafted by the owner."

Another option to get your vegan cheese fix is to special order the USA based Vtopian Artisan Cheeses (and on Facebook) by phone via the Surrey, BC company, Antony & Sons. Description from the Vtopian website "All of our cheeses are dairy-free, vegan, and handmade in Eugene, Oregon. We enjoy making innovative special cheeses to please palates. All ingredients are organic whenever possible, which is the case for almost all our ingredients. All of our major ingredients, such as cashews, oils, herbs, spices, fruits, and tofu are always organic. The cheddars, bries, and Borealis spread contain probiotic cultures. All the cheddars and bries are gluten free. All the cheddars and bries are soy free except for the Spicy White Cheddar (a small amount in spice) and Dark Chocolate Strawberry Brie (a small amount in chocolate)."

I first tried these cheeses on a trip to Portland, Oregon, and these are definitely some of my favorite vegan cheeses! They even have a seitan cheese ball for the holidays! I recently ordered a great selection and they were easily UPS shipped to me with a cold pack. They arrived in great & tasty condition. They also stock other vegan treats including one of my favourites, Cocomels Caramels, and some faux meat products too. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Alberta's first vegan store!

Today we drove out to Cochrane, Alberta, a short and pleasant drive from Calgary, to visit the brand new vegan store; VegOut Boutique. From their VegOut Boutique Facebook page, they describe themselves as "A health boutique that is dedicated to protecting your health, your planet and improving your quality of life." It is owned and operated by a lovely and passionate couple. The store is bright, well marked and with ample parking.

The store is amazing. The store stocks a wide variety of vegan items, some not found anywhere else in my travels in the Calgary area. They have a frozen & refrigerated food area with a large selection of Sweets from the Earth baked goods, tofurkey products (including the pizza pockets and quiche which I have not seen anywhere else in Alberta), raw foods and desserts, fillo dough, yoghurts, non-dairy spreads, assorted prepared meals and much more. 

There are 3 aisles of other goods including clothing, purses, yoga items, shoes (including Cynthia King vegan ballet slippers!), dried/canned food items, cosmetics, condoms, mushrooms, an impressive selection of books and DVDs, chocolates, snacks, Sea Shepherd products, and so much more! I spoke with the lovely owners and they also have plans to soon stock the line of Earth Balance snacks, Go Max Chocolate bars, & Premium Chocolatiers candies. If there is a vegan product you'd like stocked be sure to suggest it!

So with all this awesome inventory, what did we buy? I fell in love with the gorgeous recycled rubber fringed purse from the Canadian company, a super warm Sea Shepherd hoodie with embroidered logo, tofurky pizza pockets and quiche, vegan probiotics, mushroom soup and gravy and powdered peanut butter. 

The store is amazing and we are lucky to have a vegan resource like this in the province. Get out there often and support this fabulous local business! Better yet make a day of it and have a meal at the nearby vegetarian (and mostly vegan) Thai-Onzon Veggie Restaurant. (Note Thai-Onzon is closed for vacation for the month of August 2014).

Friday, May 30, 2014

My Guest Post on "Will Travel for Vegan Food" - Germany’s Vegan Paradise + Tips from Expert World Travelers

I am very excited to have a guest column on the fabulous Will Travel for Vegan Food, a wonderful vegan and travel website. The website started as a project chronicling Kristin's 2 year epic vegan trip that took her to 48 states, 547 restaurants and 39,000+ van dwelling miles.

My guest blog is a summary of all the amazing vegan dining and shopping we experienced during our April 2014 trip to Berlin, Germany. Check the article for great tips, reviews, photos and insider tricks on travelling with ease:

Germany’s Vegan Paradise + Tips from Expert World Travelers

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Entering the Gates of Hell

We’ve been back from Germany for a few weeks now. It has taken me this long to be prepared to reflect on our visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, now a museum and memorial, located 35 kilometres outside of Berlin. We felt it was important to bear witness to the persecution, imprisonment, torture, and murder of Jews, Romani people, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and other groups, under the Nazi regime. “Recent estimates, based on figures obtained since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, indicate some ten to eleven million civilians and prisoners of war were intentionally murdered by the Nazi regime” (Source: 

We took the train to Oranienburg and walked for about 20 minutes to the gates of Sachsenhausen.  “Sachsenhausen ("Saxon's Houses", German pronunciation: [zaksənˈhaʊzən]) or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950” (source: 1936 and 1945 over 200,000 people were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen.

As we entered the gates we saw the expansive grounds and several buildings. There were barracks, a mortuary, crematory, guard towers and assorted buildings. Some were original buildings and some re-built, all housing written and visual histories of the camp and its’ prisoners. There were stories told of unimaginable terror, abuse, murder and stories of resilience and survival. The stories, photos and artifacts were overwhelming. There were stories of medical experimentation, castration of gay men, starvation, torture and murder. One artifact was the gallows where many lost their lives by hanging. The inscription read “There is nothing that injures humans feelings so deeply as being forced to watch a fellow human being executed” - Heinrich Lienau, a German political prisoner, in Sachsenhausen,1939-1945. 

I recall a story of remarkable bravery, in which a prisoner working in the woodworking shop,  falsified records so he could order in additional linseed oil which was used to oil the wood. He ordered more so that he could feed the linseed oil to other starving prisoners. Another story was of Frieda B. who snuck bread to some of the 200-300 prisoners who marched through town on their way to forced labor making aircraft parts at the Heinkel Factory in Germendorf.

In one area we came upon a large pit and my stomach immediately knotted up and my eyes brimmed with tears, which gave way to uncontrollable sobbing. The pit was used to execute groups of prisoners by shooting. Another building housed barracks, a latrine and small closet like room. As I read the inscriptions I learned that the closet was stuffed with prisoners to the point of death by suffocation and that people were drowned in the latrines on the whims of the guards. I was overcome by the feelings, the smells and the claustrophobic space and had to leave in tears. As I write this I am crying again thinking about the heaviness of this place.

Public remembrance of WWII and The Holocaust, is evident throughout Berlin in museums, monuments, and memorials. In addition to the Sachsenhausen memorial and museum, we also spent time bearing witness and learning more about this history at the Topography of Terror, and The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.”

By Martin Niemöller, a German, Anti-Nazi, Luthern Pastor, and prisoner at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp