About Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey (http://jessieonajourney.com) and Epicure & Culture (http://epicureandculture.com). Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor's, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn't really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.

Latest Posts by Jessica Festa

Drinking a Cuppa Joe From Around the World

November 22, 2015 by  


While the pumpkin spice latte abounds during this time of year, perhaps making it the ubiquitous American coffee drink, coffee beverages take on just as unique forms across the world. On your travels, try checking out a few of these to revamp your daily java intake.

Cafe Cubano (Cuba)

For those of you who like your coffee dark and strong, look no further than a café cubano, known for its jolt of caffeine tempered by a sweet top layer. The recipe is simple: a shot of espresso covered by crema, sugar that’s whipped with a bit of espresso — a “short and sweet” way to kickstart the day. Also known as Cuban coffee or un cafecito, this drink thrives stateside and in its native home. If you’re a coffee drinker who prefers their java on the even sweeter and creamier side, try a café con leche, a milk-based drink that pairs espresso with hot milk and sweetener–what is essentially the Latin American cousin of the French café au lait.

coffee culture

Photo courtesy of merc67 via Shutterstock.

Turkish Coffee (Turkey)

In a similar vein as Cuban coffee, Turkish coffee is known for its small size, its thickness, and its strength. Unlike Cuban coffee, which was popularized by the presence of Italian espresso machines on the island, the Turkish coffee tradition dates back to the mid-16th century and is made by combining finely-ground coffee beans with cold water and sugar, which are then brewed in a small pot called a cezve, and poured and served in small cups. The drink has been a cultural mainstay of its home country, Turkey, and it has even wound its way into the culture of many Eastern European countries. Turkish coffee is such an integral part of Turkish culture that it has even been identified by UNESCO as an element of “intangible cultural history.”

coffee culture

Photo courtesy of OZMedia via Shutterstock.

Flat White (Australia/New Zealand)

You may think that the flat white is the successful Starbucks sibling of the pumpkin spice latte, but this drink actually originates on the other side of the globe. While debate ensues over which country — Australia or New Zealand — is the “true” origin of this drink, sources agree that both are integral to its success in the late 20th century (the 70s or 80s–there are debates about that, too). Though many Americans jumped on the Starbucks flat white bandwagon, there was widespread confusion over what this drink actually is and how it differs from your run of the mill latte. Simply put, a flat white is smaller, usually served colder, contains two shots of espresso that are paired with “micro-foamed milk” that is “freely poured with the espresso,” often resulting in a “velvety texture.” This rich drink seems worth seeking out in its original home, though it’s nice to know you can walk down the street to try the Americanized version, too.

coffee culture

Photo courtesy of OTOBOR via Shutterstock.

Kan Kohi (Japan)

Though we tend to picture coffee drinks as steaming cups of caffeinated goodness, in Japan you might be more likely to take your coffee cold and canned, since kan kohi (literally “canned coffee”) is one of the country’s most popular drinks. Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC) is credited with being the first to produce this beverage in 1969, and drink companies, including NesCafe and Coca-Cola, remain notably competitive about producing their own versions. Canned coffee has become such a popular part of Japanese food culture that writer Nobi Nakanish describes it as “as chic and ephemeral as fashion trends.” If you find yourself in Japan in a cold season, though, fear not: vending machines and stores sell warmed canned coffee.

coffee culture

Photo courtesy of Amawasri Pakdara via Shutterstock.

Kaffeost (Sweden/Finland)

Coffee and cheese? Maybe you never thought these two could, or should, be combined, but there indeed exists a rich Swedish tradition of dipping cheese into coffee, or drinking the coffee with the cheese in it. The cheese, Leipäjuusto, commonly hails from Finland, though it can also be found in northern Sweden, and is made from the milk of cows, goats or reindeer (that’s right: reindeer!). If this doesn’t sound like the best option for you in a country that loves coffee, an alternative is kaffebröd, or coffee taken with a sweeter bread/bun.

coffee culture

Photo courtesy of Mia* via Flickr.

Just as we see in the U.S., with the plethora of variations to the morning cup of joe, coffee abroad takes on fascinating shapes, brewing styles, and flavors, reflecting the unique cultures of the regions in which they exist.

What’s your favorite style of coffee? Please share in the comments below.

By Paige Sullivan  

Where To Go For Your Cuppa Joe in Chicago

November 17, 2015 by  


Photo courtesy of Coffee Lover via Shutterstock.

Gigantic, diverse and chilly for a large part of the year, Chicago has all the makings of a great coffee city. And it doesn’t put these attributes to waste: the Windy City is brimming with cozy cafes, chic espresso bars and independent roasteries. From the much-exported local pride Intelligentsia to the sophisticated, pared-back vintage vibe of spots like Gaslight, Chicago has the perfect spot for everyone to warm up over a mug of aromatic Aeropress or a creamy latte. Photo courtesy of Coffee Lover via Shutterstock.

5 Great Coffee Spots in Chicago

Photo courtesy of Intelligentsia.

Photo courtesy of Intelligentsia.

1. Intelligentsia

A Chicago staple, Intelligentsia Coffee has a number of venues around the city, though you can’t go past their Logan Square location, only a few yards from the “L” station of the same name. With a wide, open bar that wraps around the whole cafe, Intelligentsia has a friendly and relaxed feel, and a staff that take pride in their coffee-making skills. This care and precision extends to their other products, too; I was delighted to see my Moroccan mint tea came with a personalized timer so it would steep for not a moment too long. The waiter even checked in at the end of the countdown and pressed and poured it for me. It’s touches like this that elevate a simple cafe experience.

Photo courtesy of Lula Cafe.

Photo courtesy of Lula Cafe.

2. Lula Cafe

You’ll need to don your woolliest socks and scarf in the winter if you’re trying Lula Cafe for brunch on the weekends – there’s always a sizable queue on the footpath. But the excellent coffee and delicious food make this Chicago favorite well worth the wait. Head here for breakfast and pair your cup of joe with one of their homemade everything bagels with toasted fennel seeds.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photo courtesy of the author.

3. Gaslight Coffee

In the heart of Logan Square, not far from the California train station, lies one of the coolest cafes in Chicago. Spacious and minimalist, Gaslight Coffee Roasters sports a large zinc bar, vintage schoolroom seats and a comfortable communal table. A stuffed pheasant and a gold-dipped goose give the place a quirky feel, while their coffees are artfully made and delicious. Order an espresso, which comes with a glass of refreshing sparkling water on the side.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Mustache.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Mustache.

4. Cafe Mustache

Less polished than its neighborhood friends Gaslight and Intelligentsia, but with equally good coffee, Cafe Mustache is a cozy, den-like coffee shop that turns into a bar in the evenings. Locals flock here to set up their laptops, sip on coffee and while away the afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Bow Truss.

Photo courtesy of Bow Truss.

5. Bow Truss

Local Chicago roasters seem to be really skilled at building networks across the city. Such is the case for chic coffeemaker Bow Truss, which has cafes in the Lakeview, River North, Pilsen, Logan Square, Michigan and Jackson, and Chicago Loop areas. The latter in particular is a saving grace right in the heart of the city, and makes for a perfect pairing with a visit to the nearby Art Institute of Chicago, one of the finest art museums in the world.

Did your favorite cafe in Chicago make the list? Do have another coffee gem to suggest? Please share in the comments below.

By Gemma King


Where To Hike in Breathtaking Scotland

November 16, 2015 by  


scotland hiking trails

The Fairy Pools. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

Scotland is a hiker’s playground. Thanks to its stunning lochs and rugged mountains, this evergreen land has long been a favorite destination for adventure travel.

Laced with a network of hiking trails, the Scottish Highlands make it possible for trekkers to explore the country’s unspoiled wilderness without compromising their safety. Having said that, the country’s terrain can be unforgiving and the weather unpredictable, so common-sense safety precautions shouldn’t be overlooked.

Whether you’re planning the next physical challenge or a relaxing walking trip, the following hiking trails suit varying fitness levels. So pack your waterproofs, stock up on midge repellent, and take a walk along some of the most impressive landscapes in Scotland.

scotland hiking trails

The forest surrounding the tiny village of Balmacara. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

1. Balmacara Woods

Nothing beats a stroll through the woods for some peace and quiet.  Soaring over the banks of Loch Alsh, the lush green forest of Balmacara is the stuff of fairy tales.  The paths cutting through the forest are safe and clear — and if you’re lucky you might spot some deer!

From Balmacara you can follow the path that takes you to the gorgeous seaside village of Kyle of Lochalsch. You’ll come across a few bogs along the way, and swarms of midges on still days, but it’s an easy walk with great vistas of the Isle of Skye.

scotland hiking trails

The Old Man of Storr. Photo courtesy of Federica Violin via Shutterstock

2. The Old Man of Storr

Possibly the most beautiful part of the Isle of Skye, The Storr is a rocky hill crowned with a large pinnacle of rock — the “Old Man” —  which can be spotted from miles away.

A bit of  warning though; this place tends to be busy. The path to the Old Man of Storr is the most beaten track on the Isle of Skye, so forget about being the only soul in the wilderness; however, this walk offers unmatched views of the island and mainland Scotland, and therefore every fit trekker should put it on the itinerary.

The gravel path from the car park is well-maintained, but it involves some steep uphill walking for about twenty minutes before leveling out. Prepare to trudge through some deep bogs, but don’t forget to absorb the view of the cliff face up ahead.  The last part of the walk requires some strenuous effort and a bit of scrambling, which might be challenging on a wet day.

Once you get to the foot of the Old Man, give yourself a well-deserved break in the presence of one of the most beautiful sights in Scotland.

scotland hiking trails

Glennfinnan Viaduct. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

3. Glennfinnan Viaduct

Looks familiar? Glenfinnan Viaduct rose to worldwide fame when it appeared in the Harry Potter films.  If you happen to be there in the summer months you can actually get on a steam locomotive named The Jacobite. Make sure to sit on the left side of the train to enjoy a panoramic view of Loch Shiel and the surrounding hills.

After getting off at Glenfinnan Station, take a walk down to the foot of the viaduct, passing beneath the arches and climbing up a wee hill for a bird’s eye view of the bridge. Before heading back to the station it’s worth popping down to the Glenfinnan Monument, which was erected on the shore of Loch Shiel to commemorate the Jacobite Rebellion started by Bonnie Prince Charlie on the very same spot.

scotland hiking trails

The view halfway up Ben Nevis. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

4. Ben Nevis

The highest mountain in the United Kingdom at 1,344 meters (4,409 feet) above sea level, Ben Nevis is the ultimate walking challenge when you’re in Scotland.

The walk up to the summit does not entail any clambering. There is a clear path all the way to the top, and the ascent could take between 3-5 hours, depending on the weather and frequency of breaks.

You don’t need to be a seasoned mountaineer or trekker to complete this walk, but it helps to be physically prepared for it. Despite being labelled ‘child-friendly,’ the walk can be rather exhausting at times.

Do take a few breaks to admire the range of mountains at your feet. There also plenty of freshwater streams on the way, so take some empty bottles with you.

scotland hiking trails

The Fairy Pools. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

5. Sligachan to Glen Brittle

This walk takes you through the spectacular Cuillin Mountains and ends at the Fairy Pools, another majestic site on the Isle of Skye.

Starting from Sligachan campsite, the trail runs along a stream marked by gorgeous waterfalls. The path is fairly easy and it takes about three hours to get to the Fairy Pools.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go for a dip in the crystal blue — and freezing cold — water of the pools. Just don’t jump in before making sure you have packed your towel and midge repellent!

By Daniela Frendo  

A List Of Oh So Delish Coffee Around the World

November 14, 2015 by  


coffee travel

Photo courtesy of baranq via Shutterstock.

Though any travel destination could ideally offer a traveler a unique culinary experience, there is also something to be said for finding a culinary mainstay that transcends borders. Coffee culture is undoubtedly global in its scope, and for the coffee enthusiast, making this beverage a travel theme is easy to do. Read on for a few highlights in the coffee tourism scene.

1. New York City

For stateside travel, look no further than the NYC Craft Coffee Festival, tucked in Brooklyn’s Villain venue. For about $50 a ticket attendees can sample coffees from 20 different roasters, in addition to enjoying live music and snacks from the Brooklyn Biscuit Company and Underwest Doughnuts. Moreover, New York hosts hundreds of coffee shops, with the indie counter culture brands outnumbering big chains, meaning you’ll have access to a variety of interesting sipping experiences. The quintessentially on-the-go city, it’s no surprise that coffee culture is alive and thriving in NYC.

2. Bali

Indonesia is the third largest exporter of coffee, and coffee culture varies by region (and purpose, be it culinary, religion, or part of a beauty and wellness routines), often reflecting the confluence of Western and Eastern fingerprints on Indonesia’s history and development. In Bali, Satri Coffee Plantation is a oft-visited and warmly reviewed spot in the Indonesian coffee tourism scene. Reviewers cite the generous coffee and tea sampling held after the tour as the highlight. Indonesia is also the birthplace of the famous kopi luwak civet-process coffee — made from civet droppings; however, you may want to question the ethics of this brew before ordering.

coffee travel

Photo courtesy of Stasis Photo via Shutterstock.

3. Salento, Colombia

Cafe Jesús Martín comes with rave reviews, but perhaps more intriguing than this is the mission of the Martín family to be “builders of a new story in a time when our coffee production should be valued and appreciated.” Committed to quality, experience, and community, Guardian travel writer Kevin Rushby described the family as one “trying to introduce Colombians to the idea of coffee as a drink,” not just a cash crop. Tourists can visit their “Experiences” page to sign up for one or all three options: the farm, the factory, and the store.

4. Istanbul, Turkey

Considered the country’s national drink, look no further than Turkey for coffee-infused travel. The Turkish Coffee Trail in Istanbul includes a trip to the Turkish coffee history museum (yes, this is real!), a Turkish coffee course, and a tour of historic Turkish coffee sites–a great way to sip on this country’s rich culture. Added bonus: your tour includes a souvenir coffee-making glass.

coffee travel

Photo courtesy of Akimoff via Shutterstock.

5. Florence, Italy

For those who want to try their hand at learning how to craft the perfect coffee, sign up for a class at the Mokaflor Espresso Academy. Plenty of options are available for those with a vested interest in becoming a barista. For those who’d rather remain caffeinated enthusiasts, try the “Discovery” course. In three hours you’ll visit a roaster area, learn about Italy’s coffee history and culture, sample a few roasts, and learn the techniques for making cappuccinos, lattes (including latte art), and espressos.

coffee travel

Photo courtesy of milosljubicic via Shutterstock.

This is just a smattering of options for embedding coffee into your itinerary. Across the globe, one can find ways for this iconic beverage to become a “way in” to learning about and appreciating cultures across oceans and continents, or right at home.

What’s your favorite destination for coffee travel?

By Paige Sullivan

Learn Sustainable Cooking at These 6 U.S. Hotels, Inns & Lodges

November 13, 2015 by  


Want to learn how to harvest oysters in the Virginia Bay or turn your freshly picked fruit into Hawaiian cocktails, these lodges and inns won’t let you leave without letting you gain some hands on knowledge about where your food comes from. Here are some fabulous choices for American lodges, inns and hotels where you can explore the world of sustainable culinary arts.

food travel

Harvesting Eggs at the Hen House. Photo courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch.

1) Chat With Chickens & Learn About The Secret Life Of Bees (Carmel, California)

Looking for a playful resort experience with an evolving farmstead on California’s Central Coast? Thanks to a recent renovation, Carmel Valley Ranch offers dozens of activities to allow foodies to learn about the source of their food and help out on the farm. You can check out the Hen House near the organic garden with weekly Chicken Charts. You can suit up and enter the apiary with an interactive Beekeeping Experience to learn about the secret life of bees then taste fresh honey afterward or visit Bob “the Salt Guy” at the Salt House to learn about how he harvests nutrient-rich sea salt from the nearby Monterey Bay.

You can attend wine classes at the resort’s pinot noir vineyard and learn how to Sip Like a Sommelier.
Whatever your area of interest, Carmel Valley Ranch will allow you to explore an assortment of agricultural activities that helps you understand where your food comes from.

Rates start at $275 per night.

food travel

Rustic adventures at Buttermilk Falls. Photo courtesy of Buttermilk Falls Inn.

2) Family Style Forest To Feast (Charlottesville, Virginia)

Fancy a Forage & Feast adventure for the entire family? Clifton Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia invites you to fish, forge, cook and dine with their resident chef in a stunning natural setting. Guests will find their own wild and cultivated ingredients, get a quick culinary lesson then enjoy the “fruits” of their labor. Your ingredients might come from fishing at the private fully stocked lake or from foraging for wild grown herbs, mushrooms and berries or from the plentiful produce at the seasonal vegetable and herb gardens.

This package requires a 2-night and 6-guest minimum so prices start at $4,000 and includes Chef & Garden property tours and foraging sessions, hands-on cooking classes, culinary tips including sharpening knives and fresh fish preparation and a welcome gift of locally sourced goodies.


food travel

Capt & Chef dockside. Photo courtesy of Joni Carter and Virginia Oyster Country.

3) Help Out With A Bay-to-Table Oyster Harvest (Irvington, Virginia)

Join Virginia Oyster Academy for a memorable bay-to-table experience as you learn about the oyster’s fight for survival and the aquacultural advancements protecting its delicate ecosystem. You will board a boat with an authentic working Virginia waterman to learn about the reef and see how the fisherman tonge and dredge the areas. Then you will jump into the Tides Inn kitchen to learn how to buy, prepare and shuck oysters before creating delicious seafood meals. He will teach you culinary tricks to enhance your oyster eating experience, including how to prepare sauces and dishes and how to pair oysters with wine.

This Oyster Experience is offered at Tides Inn on Fridays and Saturdays in October and November for $155 per person. Accommodation can be arranged for an additional fee.

food travel

Rustic adventures at Buttermilk Falls. Photo courtesy of Buttermilk Falls Inn.

4) Indulge in a Soil to Spa Massage Treatment (Hudson Valley, New York)

Less than two hours from Manhattan, find a complete Hudson Valley retreat on 75 acres (30 hectares) of verdant farmland and lush gardens alongside the Hudson River. The property’s restaurant, Henry’s at the Farm, which draws right from the property’s own 40-acre (16-hectare) Millstone Farm with a menu that features fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and fresh eggs courtesy of heritage chickens. The eco-focused spa really distinguishes this property. In addition to being powered by solar and geothermal sources, is it now utilizing many of the ingredients grown on property for a soil-to-spa movement. Herbs are harvested from the property’s Millstone Farm to be dried for use in treatments. Tip: try a lavender and honey (produced on the farm’s hives) massage or a lavender and turbinado (natural, unrefined) sugar scrub. A series of homemade oils from such herbs as rosemary and thyme are used in aromatherapy.

When not at the spa, interact with a stable of alpacas, llamas, goats, peacocks and other furry friends running around the property, or tour the farm with the head gardener, Dawn, and go into the chicken coup to collect eggs and pick berries when nobody’s looking. Henry’s also offers cooking classes seasonally on various themes.

Rates start at $300 per night.

food travel

Fruit Picking at Hotel Wailea. Photo courtesy of Zak Noyle.

5) Pick Your Own Fruits For A Mixology Class (Maui, Hawaii)

Do you think your relationship could benefit from sunshine, a tropical escape and farm fresh meals featuring Maui-grown ingredients? Head to Hotel Wailea, Maui’s only luxury hotel designed exclusively for couples. You and your honey can tour the property’s organic farm and orchard of mango and avocado trees, picking fruit along the way and learning how to turn them into cocktails — shaken and stirred the Maui way. If you want to work up an appetite for a meal sourced from on-property organic ingredients, the resort offers a variety of opportunities for island adventure including a private safari to Maui’s hidden beaches in a reproduction 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster convertible, exploring the ocean in an outrigger canoe, or taking on the North Shore with a lesson from the resort’s own kite-boarding school.

Winter rates start at $499.

food travel

Learning to Milk Goats. Photo courtesy of Mountain Goat Lodge.

6) Goat Milking & Cheese Making (Salida, Colorado)

Have a craving for Swiss cheese but don’t want to book an international flight? Mountain Goat Lodge in Salida, Colorado has you covered. Their herd of Oberhasli Alpine goats from Switzerland provide a creamy sweet milk that creates incredible cheese and yogurt and they will happily teach you how. Start with a milking demonstration in the barn before sampling fresh cheese yourself. From there it’s your turn to whip up a batch, maybe making mozzarella, feta, chevre, ricotta, paneer and yogurt.

Rates are $65 per class and accommodation starts at $117 per night (which includes a farm-to-table breakfast for two).

By Katie Foote

Five Great Cafes in Baltimore to Get That Caffeine Fix

November 12, 2015 by  


baltimore coffee

Photo courtesy of Jon Bilous via Shutterstock.

While planning a recent trip to Baltimore, I was disheartened when I did a quick Google search for coffee shops and received recommendations for Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. But that Google search was misleading, for my expectations were greatly exceeded once I arrived in Charm City. Baltimore may not have the reputation of a fine coffee city, but in reality there are plenty of excellent places to recharge in this historic town.

Here are five of the best coffee spots in Baltimore:

baltimore coffee

Photo courtesy of Zeke’s.

1. Zeke’s Coffee

Zeke’s supplies coffee to a few of my favorite cafes in Richmond Virginia, like donut haven Sugar Shack, so I knew the coffee would be great as I headed out to their flagship location. What I didn’t expect was a charming little white-panelled house to be the site for its cafe and roastery. Free wifi and a simple menu of bagels, pastries and sandwiches top off this Moravia-Walther spot.

baltimore coffee

Photo courtesy of Dooby’s.

2. Dooby’s

A trendy, open dining space in the heart of the city’s Mount Vernon arts district, Dooby’s is a restaurant and coffee shop rolled into one. Open from breakfast until dinner, they serve Korean fusion dishes (try the miso salmon and wasabi crema rice bowl) alongside coffee-friendly pastries and desserts, and excellent espresso. It all makes for an unusual but wonderful mix. They also often run a food truck down at the harbor; check their website for times.

baltimore coffee

Photo courtesy of the author.

3. Lost City Diner

If you’re looking for espresso coffee, a diner is probably not for you. But if you’re after a piping hot Americano and a hearty breakfast, then you can’t go past Lost City Diner, a stone’s throw from the city’s central Penn Station. Lost City has all the retro charm of a fifties diner, with a science fiction comic book theme, but serves decidedly modern diner food, with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Cozy up in one of their booths with one of their vintage comic books and a cup of joe.

baltimore coffee

Photo courtesy of Artifact.

4. Artifact Coffee

Housed in a beautifully-rendered, reclaimed industrial building, Artifact Coffee is a rustic cafe delight. Serving up fresh and local fare, their breakfasts are simple yet scrumptious and their espresso coffee (from North Carolina provider Counter Culture) is some of the best brewed in Baltimore. Located in the north-west district of Roosevelt Park, Artifact’s exposed-stone walls and soaring rafters will make you feel like you’re sipping your latte in the coolest farmhouse in the world.

baltimore coffee

Photo courtesy of Koffee Therapy.

5. Koffee Therapy

Koffee Therapy may not be quite as chic and polished as spots like Artifact and Dooby’s, but it is a central Baltimore gem. Located on Franklin just off Charles Street, near the Walters Art Museum, Koffee Therapy feels like your best friend’s living room. Full of comfortable couches and spots to read or work, this casual cafe serves organic and fair trade coffee and delicious French pastries.

What’s your favorite cafe for Baltimore coffee? Please share in the comments below.

By Gemma King

Surfing the Old Fashioned Way In Peru

November 8, 2015 by  


surfing in peru

A certain set of fishermen who earn their livelihood along Peru’s lengthy coast became known, many years ago, as the cowboys of the water. What inspired this strange name? When these men straddle their steeds – which, unbelievably are made of reeds – they look remarkably like Clint Eastwood. Above photo credit: CABALLITOS DE TOTORA BOATS at sunset in Huanchaco, via Christian Vinces/Shutterstock. 

Caballitos de totora, their “little reed horses,” are designed to be mounted with both legs over the hull, so that their riders can keep their feet in the sand as they make their way, paddle in hand, through the waves and into the clear South Pacific waters where they cast their nets. Some say that these nifty watercrafts represent the world’s first form of surfing.

surfing in peru


Caballitos de totora have been ridden in the region for at least 3,000 years. Archaeologists have found ancient clay vessels crafted into the shape of fishermen riding banana-shaped boats, and they’re believed to be legacies of the Moche and later the Chimu people of northern Peru.

Skip forward to the present day and, inevitably, local people are moving away from traditional fishing techniques to newer industrial methods. One of the few places where you can still see them in action is the humming fishing village of Huanchaco in Trujillo city, about eight hours north of Lima.

surfing in peru


Huanchaco is likely to be where the caballitos de totora were first made. Reeds for the boats were, and still are, harvested from the wetlands at the edge of the town, which is now an ecological reserve. The impressive legacy of the area pulls in surfers from across the country and across the globe, and over the years Huanchaco has developed a laid-back, easy-going vibe which fits well with the sun and sunsets.

If you’ve set your heart on having a go on a little reed horse try and catch the boatmen when they’ve finished their day’s work, and offer them a contribution for the ride of about $5.


Delicious Czech Dishes for the Vegetarians Among You…

November 5, 2015 by  


czech food

Mushrooms picked from the forests of Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of Veou via Shutterstock

The Czech Republic is famous for its world-class beer and being the birthplace of the Pilsner, but little is known about the country’s cuisine.

Czechs survive the harsh winter months on thick soups and meat-based dishes, washed down with some warming mulled wine. While pork, beef and duck make up most of the country’s staple dishes, you’ll find that Czechs love to whip up some quick meals using seasonal vegetables and cheese.

Typical Czech restaurants and pubs mainly serve meat dishes, with the alternatives being rather limited; however this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a hearty, meatless meal with your pint.

Here are some traditional dishes you can try without compromising your vegetarian preferences when visiting Czech Republic.

czech food

Dill soup. Photo courtesy of Viktor1/Shutterstock

1. Dill Soup

One thing I’ve noticed whilst eating out in Czech Republic is that no meal is complete without having soup as a starter. Traditional Czech soups contain large chunks of vegetables and can be quite filling on their own.

A popular Czech starter is kulajda. This thick, creamy soup is prepared with mushrooms, potatoes and poached eggs, and garnished with dill. In summer fresh mushrooms are used for the soup- Czechs love foraging for fungi in the forest – and dried ones in winter.

czech food

Potato Pancakes. Photo courtesy of Stepanek Photography/Shutterstock

2. Potato Pancakes

Served both as a meal and street grub, Czech potato pancakes (bramboráky) make a delightful, crispy snack. Potatoes are grated and mixed with flour and eggs, then fried until golden-brown.

In some restaurants the pancakes are stuffed with pork and cabbage, but you’ll often find bramboráky offered as a vegetarian side dish. There are quite a few food stalls selling potato pancakes in Prague, especially around Wenceslas Square, where you can watch the vendors cooking on the spot.

czech food

Gnocchi with cheese. Photo courtesy of Stepanek Photography via Shutterstock.

3. Gnocchi with sheep cheese

Bryndzové Halušky, potato dumplings with sheep’s milk cheese and bacon, is the national dish of Slovakia, but it is also a staple food in Czech Republic.

Some restaurants serve homemade gnocchi with a variety of fillings, including cabbage and smoked meat. Vegetarian gnocchi are normally stuffed with bryndza cheese and fried onion.

czech food

Fried cheese. Photo courtesy of Mateusz Gzik via Shutterstock.

4. Fried cheese

Fried cheese, known locally as smazak, is a popular pub food with Czechs. This traditional snack is served as a breaded block of cheese, usually Hermelín or Edam, and can be ordered as a starter or main course.

If you’re having a busy day exploring Prague on foot, you might want to stop by a street food vendor to grab a slice of fried cheese for lunch. Like most comfort foods, smazak is sinfully unhealthy, but it is worth trying at least once when visiting Czech Republic.

czech food

Barley with mushrooms. Photo courtesy of Richard Semik via Shutterstock.

5. Barley With Mushrooms

Another traditional Czech dish prepared with wild mushrooms, Kuba was originally a common, cheap meal among the poor. It also used to be a popular Christmas dish at a time when it was customary to abstain from eating meat during the festive season.

Nowadays you’ll find this grain-based dish offered at many restaurants, served with dried mushrooms and flavored with a variety of herbs and spices.

By Daniela Frendo


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