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

The Ultimate Guide To Olive Oil Tasting & Pairing

January 25, 2015 by  

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Photo courtesy of mythja via Shutterstock.

Coconut oil may be trendier, canola oil may be cheaper and sesame oil may be more exotic, but there’s nothing quite like rich, versatile, aromatic olive oil. It’s a healthful cooking base alternative to bad fats like palm oil and margarine, as well as a highlight in itself when paired with a rustic country bread or an antipasti platter. But not all olive oils are created equal, and it takes a bit of know-how to pick and prepare the perfect one.

Photo courtesy of B. and E. Dudzinscy via Shutterstock.

Photo courtesy of B. and E. Dudzinscy via Shutterstock.

Olive Oil: Where Does It Come From? How Is It Made?

Olive oil is a native Mediterranean foodstuff, historically associated with the hot climates of countries like Greece, Spain and Italy. The rich, golden oil has been used by Mediterranean peoples since as early as 2000 BC, and has long been a popular alternative to butter, which was difficult to store as it would melt in the heat. To this day, olive oil is closely associated with the Mediterranean and some of the finest oils are still produced there, though it’s now widely circulated throughout the world.

The process for making olive oil is quite simple, and boils down to extracting the fat from whole olives through pressing, racking and filtering. The quality of the product rests largely on the olives themselves, which should be new and fresh.

Photo courtesy of al1962 via Shutterstock.

Photo courtesy of al1962 via Shutterstock.

What To Look For In An Olive Oil

You’re probably used to seeing the label ‘extra virgin’ on olive oil, as the best oils are made from fresh, young olives; ripe ones tend to lose that distinctive flavor. Later-harvest oils are good for sweeter or milder dishes. But as a dressing or antipasti feature, extra virgin is the only way to go (don’t be fooled by the sneaky use of the word “pure” on some other labels). The newer the oil, the lower the acidity and the more aromatic the taste.

When it comes to brands, it can also be best to select a locally-made oil, rather than a mass-produced international brand. Though Southern Europe still produces many of the finest olive oils, a small-scale operation based out of your region is still likely to beat a giant company working out of Italy. However, if you happen across an artisanal Mediterranean oil, snap it up!

Olive oil is not like wine; it does not age or sit particularly well. Try to use your oil relatively quickly, and if you don’t use it often, opt for a smaller bottle. When choosing a packaging, favor dark glass bottles as these tend to protect and preserve the oil best.

Photo courtesy of JIL Photo via Shutterstock.

Photo courtesy of JIL Photo via Shutterstock.

Preparation & Serving Tips

A good olive oil can be used as a cooking base, a key ingredient or the main event. Pour some into a saucer with balsamic vinegar and dip in chunks of crusty bread. Toss spaghetti with a couple of teaspoons of fresh oil, a clove of lightly sautéed chopped garlic and some torn basil. Shake two parts oil with one part vinegar, a dollop of seeded Dijon mustard and dash of sea salt for the perfect salad dressing.

But when using olive oil in cooking, such as sautéing, make sure you don’t overheat it, as this can kill its characteristic flavor; try not to exceed 365 degrees (185 degrees Celsius) in the pan. Olive oil is not appropriate for extremely high-temperature cooking, like deep frying (in which case, use canola).

Olive oil is most closely associated with Mediterranean cooking and is certainly your best choice when cooking an Italian or Spanish meal. But this versatile ingredient can also be used in Asian cooking, as well as

olive oil tasting

Photo courtesy of JIL Photo via Shutterstock. Top photo credit: mythja via Shutterstock.

baking, including sweets: try this rosemary pear olive oil muffin recipe or this candied orange olive oil cake for a lighter but scrumptious alternative to butter.

What are your favorite olive oil recipes? How do you like to go about your olive oil pairing? Please share in the comments below.

By Gemma King

 

Homemade Sancocho in Bogota Colombia

January 21, 2015 by  

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sancocho

Recently in Bogota Colombia, I took a cooking class, where my friends and I learned to make a special Colombian dish: Sancocho.

The class was taught in Spanish by a woman named Doña Elsa, and it was a privilege to get to cook with her in her home. While nobody in our group was fluent in the local language, we knew enough to enjoy and learn from the cooking course.

As soon as I walked in, colorful antique furniture and plants everywhere and her children playing in their room, I was immediately happy with my choice to immerse myself in local culinary culture.

sancocho

Once in the kitchen, Doña Elsa immediately put us to work, chopping potatoes, yucca and plantains and shucking chocla (corn) and beans before adding them along with a giant spoonful of salt into a boiling pot of water and chicken legs. While Doña Elsa touted each step of the recipe as being muy facil (very easy), I beg to differ. Individually picking corn kernels from the cob or cutting yucca in a swivel motion may have been simple for a pro like her, but for my group and I, proved a bit more difficult, albeit enlightening.

Overall, however, I’d say even with a few cutting mistakes it’s not hard to make this simple dish come out delicious as long as you get the ingredients out of their skins and into the boiling pot.

sancocho

Sancocho is usually served on Sundays and during festivals in Colombia, with its origins in the Canary Islands, although there it is typically made with fish. When Spanish colonization of much of Latin America occurred during the late 15th through late 19th centuries, Sancocho was brought to the Americas. Over time, it is developed its own regional characteristics, differing a bit depending where you are.

sancocho

While the soup boils, Doña Elsa lets us explore her family’s other passion: woodcrafting. A small in-house workshop housed hand-etched pillars for local alter restorations and frames for religious paintings. Her husband was nice enough to show us a piece of wood with tracings in it to demonstrate exactly how he cut out the intricate shapes of the furniture using small tools.

Doña Elsa also loves gardening, which was apparent by the many colorful flowers littering her home as well as the open-house plan that opened up into the outdoors to a scene of lush trees and flora.

After exploring her home, our group sat down to eat our creation. Steaming bowls of Sancocho were topped with cilantro and served alongside giant slices of avocado. Moreover, glasses of home-made lulo fruit juice added a sweet touch to the savory soup.

sancocho

Along with the opportunity to make my own food — which came out pretty darn good, if you ask me — the cooking class was special because it allowed me to spend the afternoon in a local home. It was incredibly interesting getting to know about Doña Elsa’s life and interests, and to meet her husband and children. Moreover, it provided a great bonding experience for my friends and I, as we competed to see who could de-shell beans or pick kernels off corn cobs better than the other, all while sipping shot glasses of locally-bought wine.

For anyone looking to explore culture through the palate in Bogota, a cooking class with Doña Elsa is highly recommended. That being said, if you can’t travel at the moment I’m providing a recipe below for you to try at home to have your own global table adventure.

sancocho

Sancocho Recipe:

Here is how my group made Sancocho during the cooking class, although there are different variations of the soup if you look online. The following recipe should serve about 6-8 people:

Ingredients:

1 gallon of water

1 yucca (peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces)

2 green plantains (peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces)

2 ripe plantains

4 ears of corn (kernels are picked off one-by-one)

5 potatoes (cut into 2-inch pieces)

6-8 chicken legs or 1 whole chicken

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2 cups lima beans

2 cups frijoles

1 large tablespoon of salt

2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 avocados

Directions:

1) You’ll first boil the chicken, chicken bouillon cubes, plantains, corn and salt on medium heat for about 30 minutes.

2) Add in the rest of the ingredients (aside for the cilantro and avocado) and continue to boil for about 30 more minutes.

3) When all ingredients are cooked and tender, put it into bowls.

4) Serve with cilantro on top and avocado on the side. Pepper may also be added if you like.

Delicioso!

Have you had Sancocho before? Please share your experience in the comments below.

 

 

10 of the Top Beer Bike Tours in the World

January 20, 2015 by  

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beer bike tours

Exploring a new part of the world can take many forms. On one hand, cycling around an unfamiliar city or town on a fine day, zipping down its hills, coasting through its parks and market places and snaking through its side streets, is an immersive, healthy and efficient way to explore.

On the other, food and drink is an integral part of any culture and there’s nothing quite like holing up in an authentic local bar or tavern and savoring the local fare. These are two very different ways to discover a destination. But biking and brewing don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

To help you explore active culture through the tongue, here are ten of the world’s top beer bike tours:

beer bike tours

Photo courtesy of Pedal Bike Tours.

1. Revel In Brewvana In Portland, Oregon

Portland Oregon isn’t known as “Brewvana” for nothing. Experience the city’s vast beer culture – Portland boasts over 60 micro-breweries – on a gentle 3-hour cycling tour with Pedal Bike Tours. Their Oregon Brewery Tour, voted one of the “10 Best Bike Tours in the US” by Bicycle Magazine in 2014, includes three brewery visits, with tastings and a behind-the-scenes tour. Programs run daily and cost $69 per person.

beer bike tours

Berlin. Photo courtesy of VBT Vacations.

2. Cycle Through German Beer Country From Berlin To Dresden

When you think of beer, one of the first things you think of is probably Germany. And with good reason. Some of the finest beers are German, and the country boasts an enormous range of top-notch breweries. With VBT Vacations, you can ride from the capital of Berlin to the city of Dresden, stopping to drink with local brewers, farmers and their families. Their Berlin to Dresden trip runs for 10 days, taking in plenty of German history and culture along the way. Prices start at $2845, or $3745 with international airfare.

beer bike tours

Photo courtesy of Beer and Bike Tours.

3. Experience Colorado Craft Beer Culture

The USA is certainly not all Coors Light and PBR; the country is increasingly becoming known for its outstanding craft beer culture. One of the forerunning states in micro brewing is Colorado, where Beer and Bike Tours run a range of trips that combine beer with biking. Based out of cycle-friendly Fort Collins and aptly named, Beer and Bike Tours offers a range of just that. Start with their Fort Collins Brew Cruise and sample the offerings of three local breweries, or ride to nearby Boulder on a one-day trip. Tours run daily and prices start at $50 per person.

beer bike tours

Photo courtesy of Institutravel.

4. Forget Budweiser: Drink Budvar In Southern Bohemia

Another fine country for beer consumption is the Czech Republic. With Institutravel, you can experience the region by bike, beginning in the UNESCO-protected town of Cesky Krumlov and taking in forests and towns right up to the German border, with their Southern Bohemia tour. Along the way, you’ll try Budvar, the original (and far superior) Budweiser, as well as a tour of the local Eggenburg Brewery in Cesky Krumlov. This tour runs for six days and prices start at $2890.

beer bike tours

Third Street Ale Works. Photo courtesy of Ace It Bike Tours.

5. Beer Bike Tours In Santa Rosa, California

The thought of California may evoke wine culture before beer, but the Bay Area town of Santa Rosa offers some excellent beer and bike experiences. Ace It Bike Tours runs a Bike and Brew tour of the city, which takes in the local Third Street Ale Works and Russian River Brewing Co., where you can sample the award-winning Pliny the Elder Double IPA. Tours run daily and prices start at $109 per person. Find out more about Santa Rosa here.

beer bike tours

Photo courtesy of Bike Hike.

6. Mountain Bike Coast To Coast Across Scotland

What better way to take in the glorious Scottish countryside than through a cycling tour? With Bike Hike, ride through the Highlands and experience local pub culture on their week-long coast-to-coast tour. From Aberdeen to Ardnamurchan, you’ll visit Scottish castles, country sights and distilleries, with plenty of evening beers in tiny pubs. The Scotland Mountain Biking Coast to Coast trip runs from June 5-14 2015 and prices sit at $3899 per person. Click here to see a video about the tour.

beer bike tours

Photo courtesy of MaxyM via Shutterstock.

7. Beer And Bike Through Adelaide, Australia

Beer has long been a key part of Australian culture, extending far beyond the mediocrity of Fosters to include a fast-growing boutique beer scene. In the South Australian capital of Adelaide, you can experience authentic Australian brews by taking this self-guided brewery tour of the Adelaide Hills, taking in the famous fire-brewing Prancing Pony. This brewery boasts a technique involving open flames rather than steaming methods, resulting in beers with hints of caramel flavors.

beer bike tours

Photo courtesy of Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery.

8. Craft Beers And Cycling Championships In Virginia

The historic capital city of Virginia, Richmond, boasts a burgeoning micro-brewery scene. From Hardywood to Strangeways to Ardent, the latter of which make the delectable Honey Ginger Beer, some of the country’s finest brews are emerging from this little city. Richmond is also famous for its cycling routes and events, and will be hosting the World Road Cycling Championships in 2015. Head to Visit Richmond’s biking page to discover how to tour the city for beer-related highlights.

beer bike tours

Amsterdam. Photo courtesy of Vitaly Titov and Maria Sidelnikova via Shutterstock.

9. Cycle Amsterdam On A Mobile Bike Bar

Amsterdam is a great city for many things, but cycling would have to be one of its top features. The city’s beautiful network of quaint streets and picturesque canals is unrivaled anywhere else in the world. It also happens to be an excellent destination for beer. With Get Your Guide, you can cruise the streets of Amsterdam on your very own mobile bike bar. This tour runs over two hours and prices start at $45 per person.

beer bike tours

Flanders. Photo courtesy of Foxy’s Forest Manufacture via Shutterstock.

10. Bike Belgium From Flanders To Wallonia

We’ve covered a number of beer meccas in this article, from the Netherlands to Germany to the USA. But the finest beer destination in the world would have to be Belgium. With Ciclismo Classico, you can cycle through the charming landscapes of the Flemish flatlands and the hills of Wallonia, all while taking in a wide range of Belgian beers with their Bike Belgium tour. This summertime trip runs for 9 days and prices start at $4495 per person.

Do you have a beer bike tours vacation to recommend? Please share in the comments below.

By Gemma King

Top Photo courtesy of MaxyM via Shutterstock.

 

 

 

 

 

Have an Impact on Children on the Road

January 19, 2015 by  

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Srey Toch's Childhood

Anyone who has traveled to a developing country knows the situation well — you arrive in a new place, whether a remote village or a popular urban tourist site, and suddenly you notice all the children. They confidently approach you, selling food or souvenirs, or simply holding out a cup begging for some coins. It is confronting to see both their tenacity and their poverty in the same moment.

How should you respond?

Knowing how the choices we make in these moments impact local children and child welfare is the first step.

World Vision is working to prevent child sexual exploitation in tourism in Southeast Asia by raising awareness on how to be a child safe traveler. The ‘Child Safe Tourism’ campaign provides useful advice on small ways we can help to create a safer tourism environment for vulnerable children and protect them from physical, emotional and sexual abuse:

Action 1: If you see or suspect child abuse, tell your hotel, tour guide or someone who can take action to protect the child. Visit www.childsafetourism.org for a list of international agencies you can make a report to directly.

Action 2: Giving money to children begging or selling things perpetuates the problem of them being sent out onto the streets where they are vulnerable to abuse. So instead support families and communities or donate to reputable children’s charities.

Action 3: Please don’t support ‘orphanage tourism.’ Visiting and volunteering with children in institutional care can be detrimental to their emotional and physical well-being. Instead support organizations and initiatives that enable children to be cared for within a family.

© World Vision: Vannith Touch

© World Vision: Vannith Touch

Action 4: Giving gifts or taking children to places alone teaches them to trust strangers. So avoid giving presents directly to children and never take them anywhere without the supervision and permission of their parents or guardian.

Action 5: Choose hotels, tour companies and business that implement child protection policies and have programs to support disadvantaged children and families.

Action 6: Treat children like you would in your home country. Before taking photos of children, always ask for their permission.

Action 7: Spread the word about Child Safe Tourism. Share this information with your friends and family while you travel and when you return home.

This has been a guest post by Verity Kowal, Media and Communications Officer of Child Safe Tourism.

Top photo: ©World-Vision-Sopheak-Kong

 

Head to the Galapagos Islands to Swim with Sea Lions & Sharks

January 18, 2015 by  

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hammerhead shark

“Don’t freak out, but there are two huge hammerhead sharks right below us.”

My guide Jens’ attempt at having me “not freak out” over the two carnivorous beasts that are 10 feet away from my juicy calves only leads me to begin shrieking and jumping on his back. Soon, though, the sharks are gone, and nobody has been eaten.

“Sharks prefer sea lions and fish to people,” Jens explains. “They’ll only go for you if they’re confused.”

Thankfully, those two hammerheads seemed very understanding.

I am on the Galapagos Island of San Cristobal in South America, taking a snorkeling tour of Isla Lobos, León Dormido/Kicker Rock and Puerto Grande — which includes swimming with sharks and sea lions. With its clear waters, white sand beaches, unique flora and fauna and playful sea lions, it’s hard to believe there could be a better paradise than this.

Isla Lobos

Our first stop is Isla Lobos. The site features a small but pristine island, and a protected channel known for its plethora of sea lions. Here, the visibility is amazing, as you could see every fish, sea turtle and sea iguana very clearly – almost too clearly.

“Do you see how those fish all come together and disperse with a lot of white things?” asks Jens. “That’s sperm. They’re making rock and roll.”

 sea lion

Sea lions. Photo courtesy of moments in nature.

I laugh, turning to tap my friend on the shoulder to tell her, just as she performs a very acrobatic flip out of the water. That’s when I realize it isn’t my friend, but a baby sea lion trying to play a game with me. Two minutes later, three of its friends join in. On land, blue-footed boobies, pelicans and frigate-birds abound. It’s amazing to look at the whole picture at once, as the marine and bird life seem to dance together on one stage.

Kicker Rock

Our next stop is Kicker Rock, a massive rock formation rising 500 feet out of the water and taking on the appearance of a león dormido, or sleeping lion. It’s also the site of my shark encounter. The guide tells me that sometimes there are almost 100 sharks, so only encountering six for the day isn’t a lot. As I’m used to encountering zero, I beg to differ; however, the Galapagos sharks, blacktip sharks, white tip sharks and hammerheads that reside near Kicker Rock, while large in size, are virtually harmless to humans.

That knowledge does nothing, however, to keep my blood from running cold every time one comes within 10 feet of me. Once we leave Kicker Rock, however, I realize how lucky I am to have had such a unique experience. And, along with the sharks, the Chocolate Chip starfish, sea turtles and an array of tropical fish and colorful corals remind me I’m in one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse places in the world.

Puerto Grande

For lunch we make a stop at the serene beach of Puerto Grande. The food is great, a huge helping of rice with tender chunks of beef. Once we’ve digested a bit, the group descends into the warm, clear water and makes our way to the beach for a short informational hike. The beach is covered in hermit crabs, diverse pieces of shell and perfect white sand. Apparently, the sand gets its color from the chunks of white coral that lay upon the beach.

We make one more stop at Kicker Rock for a bit more snorkeling and diving – and more shark encounters – before heading back home. As I lay on the bow of the boat, bathing in the last of the day’s sunlight, I hear a loud splash in front of me. Looking up, a breaching whale jumps out of the water, and I slowly watch its tail sink back below. This place really is unlike any other on Earth.

Travel Tip: If visiting the Galapagos Islands and interested in doing this tour, it was given by Dive Surf Club, although you can book through any agency as the whole island works together. The guides are hysterical, fun and have a lot of knowledge. It’s $50 to snorkel and $120 to dive, including naturalist guides, dive instructors, snacks, drinks and lunch.

*This article originally appeared on Gadling

Top photo credit: Hammerhead shark. Photo courtesy of Barry Peters.

3 Fabulous U.S. Foodie Excursions While Getting Fit

January 17, 2015 by  

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Food loving travelers, rejoice! If you want a guilt-free way to enjoy the best wines, seafood and regional cuisine around the world, chose from these food-fitness safaris, active trips that will have you burning calories without even realizing it.

In addition to exploring new places and foods through wine tastings, food pairings and cooking classes, these food-fitness safaris also expose you to local wildlife, whether it’s on the slopes, in the sea or in the rainforest. Get ready for immersive adventure travel, where even your taste buds will enjoy the trip.

food vacations

1) River Rafting, Wilderness Cooking Lessons & Wine Pairings (Idaho/ Oregon)

Explore the best of Northwestern United States with a whitewater rafting trip, wine pairings and gourmet meals with ROW adventures’ Culinary Whitewater Rafting Series. Raft down either Salmon River Canyons in Idaho or Rogue River in Oregon and enjoy intermediate rapids, warm water and green-forested canyons.

During the day, split up rafting with swimming and wildlife watching for deer, black bear, river otters and a variety of birds. You can also get off the river with walks to historic homesteads and hikes on superb trails. End your days with gourmet meals, which you can help prepare or just enjoy. You can chose a trip with hands-on cooking lessons where you learn to make gourmet wilderness meals using the campfire or a Dutch Oven cooking. On other trips, a guest chef will prepare Northwest Regional Fare paired with local wines.

food vacations

Fish to Fork Eating. Photo courtesy of Omni Amelia Island Plantation.

2) Dock-to-Dish Dining With Dolphins (Amelia Island, Florida)

Visit Amelia Island, Florida for an unforgettable fishing and hunting experience. Work up an appetite by reeling-in redfish (a popular Florida sport fish), skates and rays (delicious to eat), sharks and more. During the annual “Fish to Fork” chef showdown, local fishing captains expertly guide you down back-country salt marshes of Amelia Island or the deep blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean for a true dock to dining experience.

While hunting for your dinner, spot hundreds of species of local birds, dolphins and manatees. See how your own meal compares to a professional concoction at weekend’s main event — the “Fish to Fork” chef showdown. At this live battle, chefs will turn the catch of the day into a signature dish using a mystery ingredient. Visitors, like you, will sample the salty bounty and decide the winner.

food vacations

Woodboat Winter appetizers. Photo courtesy of AJ DeRosa

3) Snowshoeing & S’Mores (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)

Join Woodboat Tours for Snowshoe with Tipi Dinner in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Take off on a four-day snowshoe hike in the shadows of the Grand Tetons.

As you move silently through the Cottonwood forest on the banks of the Snake River, your guide will interpret moose, elk, deer, coyote and river otter tracks in the snow with occasional glimpses of the animals. As the temperature drops, you’ll arrive at Tipi camp just in time for sunset and a custom dinner. Dine on wild-caught salmon or buffalo and regional side dishes before climbing into your cozy tipi, if you elect to spend the night.

Contributed by Katie Foote

Top photo credit: Salmon River Canyon with ROW Adventures. Photo Courtesy of Chad Case. Featured image courtesy of nito via Shutterstock

 

 

6 Fun Retreats for a Mixture of Wellness, Yoga & Adventure

January 17, 2015 by  

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yoga fusion

2) Green Yoga & Permaculture (Guatemala)

Journey to sacred Mayan land in San Marcos La Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala for a yoga and immersive live experience that will change the way you see the world around you. Live off-the-grid and stay in rustic cabanas to escape the day-to-day grind of technological living, learning to re-appreciate simple pleasures.

While here, you will learn about permaculture which nurtures similar principles as yoga: awareness of surroundings, working with your body, and cultivating a union between mind and movements. The Yoga Forest helps you achieve honest living, and you’ll learn to recognize the impact of plants, buildings, animals and insects on the environment and its occupants. Participate in daily yoga, meditation and service (seva or karma yoga) within the community in a comfortable place conducive to growth and sharing.

Monkey encounter! Photo courtesy of Escuela Del Sol.

3) Yoga & Wildlife Volunteering (Costa Rica)

There’s always something happening at La Escuela Del Sol: Spanish lessons, surfing, scuba certification and fire poi dance lessons in a tropical Costa Rica location, for example. This spring, you can add wildlife volunteering to that list, as they just bought Rainsong Wildlife Rescue Center. Starting in April 2015, you will also be able to assist their efforts in accepting injured and abandoned animals from the area. Moreover, new glamping tents, a new yoga deck and a swimming pool are on the menu for the new year.

yoga fusion

4) Yoga & Festivals (India)

Join Sacred Earth for a yoga journey through southern India, in time to participate in one of the area’s most moving festivals: Karthigai Deepam. A festival of lights, you’ll see the streets and buildings glow red and gold as ghee (clarified butter) is lit on the summit of Mount Arunachala as a powerful beacon of light visible from afar.

During this time, see thousands upon thousands of pilgrims walking to Tiruvannamalaito to walk around the Holy Mountain, stopping at devotional shrines along the way. On this 16-day retreat, you will also cruise through rice paddies, take a rickshaw tour of markets and attend a dance performance in Kerala. You will practice yoga throughout and absorb the spirit of the place where it all began, through visits to temples and various other holy spaces.

yoga fusion

5) Yoga & River Rafting (Costa Rica)

If you seek surf and spirituality, consider Langua Travel’s Costa Rica Yoga+ Adventure trip. This custom yoga trip can contain an action-packed week of yoga, whitewater rafting and surfing in the jungles and on the beaches of Costa Rica. You may also opt to add Spanish courses, paddle-boarding or horseback riding. Your trip culminates with a rafting excursion on the wild rapids of the Pacuare River, in the middle of the rain forest. In the evenings, healthy and delicious meals and savored before sunset yoga. Activities like zip lining and waterfall jumping are offered at stops along the river.

yoga fusion

6) Aerial Yoga & Surfing (Costa Rica)

If you want to take your yoga practice upside down, visit the Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica for the unique opportunity to enjoy aerial yoga from the comfort of your hotel. This anti-gravity yoga provides an incredible stretch that is good for the spine. In addition to aerial yoga, chose from several other types of yoga and meditation classes or visit the nearby Playa Guiones to take advantage of surfing (they have some of the world’s most consistent year-round breaks). Whether you are into long-boarding, short-boarding or stand up paddle boarding, you can leave your wetsuit at home thanks to year-round warm weather and convenient board rental near the hotel (cost ranges from $15 to $25 per day).

Do you have a yoga fusion, wellness or adventure travel with purpose retreat you’d like to recommend? Please let us know in the comments below.

Contributed By Katie Foote

 

Where to Find the Best Coffee in Richmond Virginia

January 16, 2015 by  

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Photo courtesy of Sunny Forest via Shutterstock.

It may not be as big as New York or as iconic as San Francisco, but Richmond is one of the USA’s hidden dining treasures. Over the past few years, a wonderful collection of cafes, restaurants and bars has cropped up in the Virginian capital.

Here are five of the finest cafes in Richmond:

Photo courtesy of Gemma King.

Photo courtesy of Sefton Coffee Company.

Sefton Coffee Company

Barely a year old, Sefton Coffee Company has already established itself as one of the best coffee spots in Richmond. Their drinks menu is wildly long and creative and I’m yet to try something that isn’t fantastic. Pair your coffee with granola and a smoothie in the morning, or a sandwich with their house-made trail mix in the afternoon. Whatever you get, get it to eat in; the staff are just lovely.

Photo courtesy of Gemma King.

Photo courtesy of Gemma King.

Sub Rosa

Just before I first moved to Richmond, beloved local bakery Sub Rosa was consumed by a fire. But today Sub Rosa is back and better than ever, serving scrumptious pastries, crusty wood-fired bread and top-notch coffees. The iced version, pictured, is the perfect antidote to a sweltering RVA summer’s day.

Photo courtesy of Lamplighter.

Photo courtesy of Lamplighter.

Lamplighter

Popular lunch spot Lamplighter boasts a long bagel and sandwich menu unrivalled by anywhere else in the city. But while their lunch fare is certainly delicious (my favorite is the ‘Katie’ avocado bagel), Lamplighter’s main attraction is its house-roasted coffee. Keep it simple and order their Americano for your afternoon pick-me-up.

Photo courtesy of WPA.

Photo courtesy of WPA.

WPA, or Well-Made Pastry Alliance

No pour overs, espressos, short macchiatos or cappuccinos here: WPA does filter coffee (hot or iced) and filter coffee alone. But they do it damn well, and paired with the most delectable pies, muffins and cakes in town. There’s always a sizeable gluten free and vegan range of treats, too. Plus the service and atmosphere are simply charming.

Photo courtesy of Sugar Shack.

Photo courtesy of Sugar Shack.

Sugar Shack

Donut lovers rejoice: Sugar Shack not only serves rich coffee; they are also famous for some truly mouth-watering donuts. Regular flavours include peanut butter with clusters of fresh peanuts, chai, maple bacon and caramel with sea salt flakes. I’m usually the girl in the corner with the large latte and chocolate sprinkles donut though. Can’t beat the classics.

Note: Sugar Shack’s flagship is an over-the-counter shopfront on Leigh Street, but if you want a sit-down café experience, they have a Monday to Friday coffee shop on Main Street in Downtown.

What’s your favorite coffee haunt in Richmond? Please share in the comments below.

By Gemma King

Photo one – Photo courtesy of Sunny Forest via Shutterstock.

 

 

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