Fascinated by the Colors of Mexico
Veggie-friendly Virginia Area
Scenes from Guadalajara
Guadalajara is the second biggest city in Mexico, so we could only see so much in a week, but what we explored was impressive. Colorful sculptures, fountains, historic buildings, and great walkable plazas add a lot to the bustling city. Nearby art-filled Tlaquepaque was super charming and my favorite part of the trip.
Words cannot describe the outstanding scenery in Kauai, the oldest island in Hawaii.
My Los-Angeles based parents made “The Garden Isle” home many years ago around the time of Hurricane Iniki in 1992. I have been fortunate enough to travel there many times. Every visit is soothing, offering views of incredible rainbows and lush green mountains pouring down into the sea filled with colorful fish. The landscape brings a calm to your soul and is so much more than what the many movies filmed there portray. It is worth taking a tropical trip any chance you can.
Sugar: Sweet Friend or Foe?
Cookies, ice cream, donuts, cereal, sodas, and countless other treats are frequent and challenging temptations for many people. It can be hard to resist these products found in so many settings from grocery stores to movie theaters and birthday parties.
However, the reality is sugar is an addictive, unhealthy ingredient. Luckily I am not so drawn to sugar anymore, but when I posted on Facebook a few years ago that I was struggling, numerous people commented they were having a tough time avoiding sweets as well. Friends were trying many ways to moderate their sugar intake. We hear that the sweetener causes depression, weight gain, and lower immunity. This image indicates many more reasons to stay away from the stuff.
The good news is that stevia, coconut nectar, xylitol, monk fruit, brown rice syrup, and other sugar alternatives can be found at health food stores and increasingly at mainstream grocery stores. These options are becoming more popular by the moment. Conveniently, fresh fruit is another more nutritious option.
Celebrating a Journey of 30 Years
It is time to rejoice, as 2021 marks my 30 years as a vegan! I had already been a vegetarian for many years when I changed my diet. This lifelong calling to avoid eating animals, which started at age four, was motivated by compassion for the animals. During my college days, I learned about the health and environmental reasons to avoid dairy, eggs, and all animal products and quickly transitioned to a vegan way.
Some people find the lifestyle limiting and certain vegans too preachy. But that is evolving as climate change and health concerns have moved to the forefront. Suddenly the plant-based diet is in the spotlight. The world of herbivorous options has expanded incredibly in these three decades. Fast-food chains are selling meatless burgers, pizza, burritos, and more, and some restaurants have vegan sections of their menus.
It brings me joy to see all the advances in food products. In the 1990s, non-dairy cheeses were wet and unappealing; today numerous tasty brands and varieties exist. Plant-based ice creams have totally transformed from strangely textured rice-based products to creamy coconut and soy-based wonders available in dozens of flavors. Mainstream grocery stores and natural foods retailers carry everything from great vegan cookies and delicious milk and meat alternatives to non-dairy macaroni and cheese.
Besides enjoying the health and other benefits of the diet, being true to myself has been rewarding. There have been many heartwarming moments as these decades have passed. Recently several young people have given me wonderful compliments and even bowed in front of me for the discipline it has taken to be vegan for so long and for being a trendsetter. Over the years, many friends and family members have made my day contacting me with news of their transition to meatless meals. The growing cultural acceptance of veganism is uplifting!
UPDATE: Just as I celebrate 30 years of following a plant-based diet, my VegNews article on some of the great veggie options in Tijuana is now online.
Indulging in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen in Mexico’s lovely state of Quintana Roo has become a travel favorite for us. Even with the humid heat, mosquitos, and occasional sargassum (thick seaweed in the ocean), it is an attractive and fun place to visit. While the pandemic was slowly improving, the bustling city had mostly returned to its usual state, with hundreds of businesses to explore. I had fun discovering various new veggie-friendly restaurants and stores, along with relocations and changes to existing favorites.
Vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians alike can have a blast taking a tour of the several health-conscious places all within walking distance of each other. Basic Foodie, which makes delicious sandwiches and vegan pastries, moved to a nice indoor/outdoor space on Avenida 25. If you are seeking soy products and dairy-free cheeses, a new store called Diosa Vegana is steps away.
Bio-Organicos, a tasty Playa hangout, added a bright second location with the “Bio-Organicos Light” store on Avenida 25, offering nutritious products and a scaled-down version of their restaurant menu. A few doors away in the cute Mercado 30 building, vegans rejoicing at both Peace and Bowl and Bajo Café can also cool down from the tropical heat with a drink from Diosa Organics Kombucha. An additional highlight on Calle 30 is Naia Gourmet, selling bread, almond butter, chia seeds, cacao nibs, and the like. Farmers Market Playa (on Avenida 30 across from DAC, another good site for healthy groceries) also offers fresh produce and vegan cheeses and burgers. Dessert lovers must not miss Panneria on Calle 34 for an excellent array of vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free cakes, cookies, and other treats.
When in the north part of Playa del Carmen, Olio Mercado Vegano on Calle 38 is a worthwhile stop to purchase desserts, protein powder, snacks, and such. Not far from the beach are some great eateries for herbivores, such as La Cueva del Chango on Calle 38, which not only has a vegan portion of the menu but a beautifully dreamy tree-filled ambiance. For high-quality plant-based burgers, omelets, soups, cookies (pictured), and beyond, The Pitted Date on nearby Calle CTM is a must. When on Calle CTM, look for Aryan, a newer Indian restaurant dishing up flavorful foods.
Be sure to use Happycow.net and Google to find veggie favorites, and ask other travelers and locals about additional places. There are many more eateries than what I have listed here!
It is worthwhile to take advantage of any techniques that help us slow down and savor the moments in our fast-paced lives. Whether we twist ourselves into unimaginable yoga poses, walk along a beach, or sit still for a few moments of peace, self-care is always beneficial. For thousands of years across the world, sipping on a cup of tea has been one way that people have relaxed. Teas also offer many herbal properties that I love to put to use. Mint and ginger soothe stomachaches, lavender and chamomile calm our nerves, and African rooibos (a red bush) gives a little buzz without the side effects of caffeine. Modern life even has instant water heating devices that make boiling water incredibly easy and fast.
Also, tea can have sentimental meaning for some people. Over the years, my sister Blair and I have added a personal touch to our letters by inserting tea bags into the envelopes sent across the country. When my other younger sister Tara moved to London she sweetly gifted me with a wooden box, and I immediately filled the little sections with various flavored tea bags. Now, something as simple as drinking a cup of the hot beverage feels like a special ritual. Tea, anyone?
Charmed by Casa Cacao
I will travel miles for quality chocolate and food, even through hordes of pedestrians, fruit and vegetable vendors, and a zoo of honking cars. So yesterday my love and I made our way through the Tijuana center near the famous and bustling Avenida Revolucion because surprisingly that is where you’ll find a peaceful and charming family business. The minute you walk in it feels like a retreat from the craziness outside, as you are welcomed by the friendly Mexican owners and taken by the colorful art and hats all around.
Casa Cacao features the beloved food of Mexico’s Oaxaca region and honors the health benefits of cacao. This plant is full of antioxidants and is known for reducing blood pressure, improving digestion, lowering the risk of heart disease and stress, and beyond. The menu includes some vegan options such as tamales with mole negro, a hot artisanal chocolate chai drink, and delicious coffees. We loved chatting with the owner Jose Luis, who recently became vegan as part of his efforts to improve his health and lose weight. I cannot wait to go back; it looks like a wonderful place to have a celebration with a group of loved ones.
Delights of the Desert
After more than a year of the pandemic, we were ready to explore new sites rather than feeling cooped up at home. Once the sunny spring hit, we chose an overnight journey to the Southern California desert with its expansive mountain views. Our road trip to the Desert Hot Springs area entailed several hours of driving but was worth it for the getaway to some relaxing and beautiful mineral hot springs. We also did a bit of sightseeing in nearby Palm Springs, a special family hub where my dad and grandparents lived for years and I often visited as a child.
To add to the fun, I usually support any veggie businesses possible when visiting a new city. Chef Tanya’s Kitchen makes a tasty meatless Chupacabra Chick’n wrap, which hit the spot. Those who go to the Palm Springs location (pictured) can take their food to go or grab one of a few tables outside, along with enjoying a small vegan grocery store with unique products.