It’s been a few years since I’ve set foot in Europe, after a few beautiful trips to Belgium, France, Italy & Prague. I absolutely adore everything about Europe. The cobblestone streets, the crisp air, brick and mortar bridges, towering castles and bustling cities. On some lucky nights I drift off and dream im wandering down a century old street sipping an espresso and immersing myself in the rich and wide ranging language sand cultures.


This week, my family and I hopped on a cramped flight to Detroit and flew standby to Munich, Germany. By some magical trick of luck, we not only made it there on our first attempt, but my mom, sister and I landed the last three seats on the aircraft. Which, even luckier, happened to be in first class.


My life has changed so much since my last European adventure, and it was incredible to venture that way again in such over the top luck and luxury. 


What was also awesome was the breadth of vegan options in first class. Along with my champagne, I dined on a fresh greens salad, a mix of warm nuts, and summer squash, tomato and vidalia onion tart. For dessert, they didn’t have much, but they did have fresh fruit and fig compote – sans the selection of fine cheeses – and poof! Vegan dessert, y’all.


ALSO, breakfast. BREAKFAST! 
I was a vegetarian on my previous rendezvous across the continent, so I’m excited to see what Germany and Prague have in store for me as a vegan. 
I’m blessed, thankful and beyond lucky to be on this magical trip. Travel brings out the best in all of us, and so much truth, peace and clarity.
Happy travels!

Nikki

Mission to Nepal!

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There are the years that ask questions, and the years that answer.

For me, this past year has been comprised of tremendous growth and realization. A year where the struggles and challenges I’ve worked through in the past revealed themselves as hard-earned lessons I needed to learn. Blessings, even.

You know how you get on a health kick and workout and eat well for weeks, but never see the results? And just when you’re about to give up, you wake up one morning and your clothes are looser, you look fabulous and feel amazing? That day when you look in the mirror and tell yourself, I am so glad I kept at it and never gave up.

THAT exact feeling is what this last year has been for me. I’ve grown soย  much in faith, courage, confidence and strength. I have the courage to love fully and the humility to forgive. I have the faith to chase after my dreams and the resilience to fight through the challenges that come my way.

It’s crazy how being broken down is the only way to build yourself stronger, wiser, and greater. It’s necessary, it’s normal nd it’s healthy; so much that I’m grateful and thankful for everything I’ve gone through.

My faith and passion for helping others has encouraged me to go farther. Give deeper. Go beyond just kindness and do something real to help others a world away.

I’ve decided to go to rural, southern Nepal in late July 2017 to help do important service work and spread God’s word and love. It’s something I’ve always wanted, but never thought I’d actually go for. I firmly believe so much in sharing the power of faith and belief to everyone I know, and helping them reach their fullest potential as individuals, a people, and as a community.

I’m reaching out to my blogging family to help fund my mission to Nepal! It’s my first-ever mission and I’m eternally grateful and excited for the opportunity to do this with my cousins and godparents. Even the smallest gift is truly appreciated and will go towards making a difference. Thanks much!

https://www.gofundme.com/at-mission-trip-to-rural-nepal

Travel Tuesday: Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Although I love writing and literature, I was wary about traveling to Shakespear’s iconic birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon. I pictured a cheesy tourist trap in the American sense, with tacky gift shops and crowded photo op’s. What we discovered after a gorgeous, idyllic drive from London to the (DIRECTION) was something entirely different.

Despite millions of visitors, Stratford-Upon-Avon hasn’t lost it’s unique, small-town charm. There’s cobble stone streets crammed with tea houses and shops, their awnings giving way to traditional apartments above. There’s rivers running through the heart of town, adorned with swans, wooden riverboats and framed by cobblestone bridges and riverside restaurants with water wheels.

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Travel Tuesday: British Butterfly Garden

   

Shakespeare’s birthplace offers many charms, from sleepy riverboats cruising down cobblestone-flanked rivers to fairy-tale cottages and windmills dotting the town’s outskirts. My favorite part about the picturesque Stratford-Upon-Avon wasn’t high tea. It was the breathtaking butterfly garden that I could’ve wandered around in for hours.  

   
The butterfly sanctuary is a haven for humans and insects alike. There’s iguanas lunging lazily on the netting above and gorgeous plants of every kind shoved into every possible space. Although indoors, the garden is lush and welcoming. Even the butterflies (which are literally everywhere) barely flinch as you walk by and inch closer to check out their unique beauty.

I absolutely adored this place. Butterflies were landing all over us, and even would walk onto our fingers from a nearby leaf without the slightest hesitation. There were all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns, each gorgeous in their own right. The energy inside the garden was peaceful, precious and overwhelmingly special.

  

    
 

Travel Tuesday: Windsor Castle

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England is a magical place – equally modern and ancient, the old and new co-existing with castles aplenty. Although I’ve seen my fair share of castles, there’s something special about a castle that is still used as a private, royal residence. In fact, part of Berkshire, England’s majestic Windsor Castle wasย shut off because in anticipation of the Queen’s arrival.

Like most castles, Windsor Castle is overwhelming first, and incredible second. It amazes me that mere humans erected such gigantic, well-built structures that are still standing in their medieval might.

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The castle is obviously self-sustaining; inexplicably thick walls surround the ‘neighborhood’ contained inside. There’s St. George’s Chapel, a gorgeous gothic church in its own right; the gold-plated, ornate State Apartments; the endless green courtyards and brick and stone that comprise the rest.

Taking photographs inside the buildings is forbidden, as a means to protect the 11th-century oil paintings, hand-carvedย weapons and gold-gilt walls. We did take quite a few outside of the castle and around its courtyards and cobblestone walkways that capture the mere size and magic of this place.

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Travel Tuesday: Vegetarian in London!

Eating animal-free on the go can be troublesome stateside, but in Europe, it’s a cinch. Even in London, I was amazed by the plethora of plant-based choices at pubs, mom & pop’s, hotels and the like.

Warning: If you’re vegan, it’s a whole different story. Cheese, butter & sometimes eggs are prevelant in meat alternatives. All of these choices are sans-meat, but not all are vegan.

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My first (& one of my favorite) vegetarian meals was at a local pub, recommended by the concierge at our little hotel. There, I immediately spotted vegetarian bangers & mash, a meat-free take on classic English fare. The plate featured yummy veggie sausages (the “bangers”) atop a pile of mashed potatoes & peas. I’m not a huge fan of peas, but the English seem to put them onย everything – whether they be mashed, creamed, mushy, or firm. I think I’ve officially hit my lifetime limit of peas. Anyways, I loved that I got to try some English food the veggie way, particularly at the very first pub we went to!

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Thankfully, beer is always a good choice anywhere in the world ๐Ÿ™‚ Our trip was off to a really good (animal-friendly) start.

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Just like in the States, ethnic food is an easy way to garauntee that delicious, healthy & plant-based abound. In many cousines, veg dishes aren’t just an accident or tossed in the menu to appease vegetarians – they’re main dishes, delicacies and staples. One of my favorite things on the entire planet is Lebanese food, and local spots were dotted all along London’s quaint streets. I feasted on aย Batata Harraย wrap, a spicy mix of diced potatoes and sautรฉed veggies, creamy sauce and hummus. It was so delicious I honestly almost cried! I love pairing spice with creamy, and this wrap was cheap and totally blew my mind.

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Thankfully, we were wise enough to order some baba ganoush, an hummus-type dip made of cooked eggplant, oils, tomatoes, onions and spices. Ours even featured some pomegranate and bell peppers, alongside homemade Lebanese pita bread. Yum!!

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As if the meat-friendly meal couldn’t get any better, itย totallyย did. Every table finishes off with a plate of fresh fruit and varieties of Baklava. Each one was so insanely delish that we were fighting over the crumbs like little kids. My favorite was the one in the back with green filling – an uber-yummy pistachio delicacy.

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Another English staple is the crispy, greasy, fried fish & chips – with, of course, a side of peas. I was stoked to find two different pubs that served up a vegetarian-friendly version. The fish filling is made of a certain kind of cheese, which sounds really odd – but the thick texture of the cheese and fishy seasoning were surprisingly close to the real deal. Again, if you’re vegan, this wouldn’t have been an option, but it’s still a welcome gesture that it’s even offered.

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English tea time:ย a beautiful, adorable, and necessary food-related experience while on the British isle. Tea time was quaint, cool, and a total blast – and eating meat-free was a cinch. My sandwiches came with peeled grapes & brie, and were arguably the best little sandwiches on the menu. I’m totally going to make these at home, tea party or not. The second tier (you work your way up) was filled with yummy scones and clotted cream, followed by some super-sweet little desserts. If you’re vegan, again, tea time would be a toughie.

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We also stopped by an adorable little French cafe on the river outside of Windsor Castle. We feasted on warm bread, a beautiful pea & pumpkin soup (there’s the peas again!) and this delicious, flaky pastry stuffed with goat cheese, olives, and ratatouille.ย Yea, you read that right. I’m salivating just writing about it – the flaky pastry and ratatouille combo blew any soup & sourdough Stateside experience out the window.

IMG_0405American airports are known for being crammed with overpriced fast food and mile-long Starbucks lines. To be fair, they have been getting a little better with their food chocies, but still pale in comparison to every experience I’ve had in Europe. The UK was no different – we found ourselves starving & overtired, struggling to pick what and where to eat. Since we were also nearly out of money, we popped into a convenience store and found an awesome combo deal for a drink, wrap & snack. I chose this insanely good wrap and a side of edamame & hummus, coupled with an all-natural, no sugar added ginger rootbeer. Why don’t we have this many healthy, affordable options in the States??

I had an amazing time in England – I honestly can’t wait to go back! And, of course, eat more food ๐Ÿ™‚ happy travels!

 

 

 

 

First Day in London!

My Dad, sister & I just touched down in London, England. We snagged a direct flight from LA and got bumped up to first! We got so lucky to chow down in first class – and they even had plenty of veggie options!   
This delish appetizer plate I requested without meat.  

It was pretty bomb.
 For the first three days of our trip, we’ll be staying in Kensington! We got here around 6pm today and had only a few hours to run around.  

  
Before we set out on a lengthy walk from our hotel to Kensington Park, we stopped for dinner at The Goose, an open, slightly posh English tavern complete with polished dark wood and darkened lighting. 

  
I was thrilled with their vegetarian menu – I devoured some traditional ‘bangers and mash’ with veggie sausages, veg gravy & peas. 

  
We downed some beers (it is a tavern, after all) and planned out a busy day for tomorrow! 

We strolled around Kensington Park before the sun went down, and then headed back towards our hotel to get some sleep. We’ve got a crazy-busy, action-packed day tomorrow, so I can’t wait to snap some pictures and see Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the other sights! Here’s a few shots from Kensington Park ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy travels!