Train Odyssey Day 9: Beautiful Budapest

There’s no doubt about it: Hungary’s capital is quite the charmer. From the first moment we stepped off the train in Budapest’s Keleti Station, we couldn’t help stopping to admire the the ornate columns and paintings surrounding us. And things only got better from there. Every block leading from the train station in Pest to the bridge crossing the Danube had fascinating buildings and lifelike stone sculptures to admire . Once over on the hilly Buda side of town, we marveled at Castle Hill, the views of the Hungarian Parlament building, and the breathtaking St. Matthias Church. Then to top off a wonderful day,we savored every bite of our meal at plant-based Napfenyes Etterem, which would have tasted amazing even if we hadn’t had several days of meals bought in grocery stores and eaten on trains or in city parks. No matter how the day had turned out Five String would have been smitten with Budapest (he has been talking up his Hungarian heritage and childhood dream to visit the city to anyone who would listen for years now), but in the end all the Fives were truly impressed by this Darling of the Danube.

Keleti Station

 

Pest

 

Castle Hill

 

Parliament

 

St. Matthias Church

 

Napfenyes Etterem

 

ABC’s of Rome’s Borgo District: Angels, Bonci, and Cioccolato

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Beyond the Coliseum and the Forum, on the west side of the Tiber River, we were recently schooled on some of the finer and lesser known family attractions in Rome. From exploring dark tunnels, to sampling the most creative and delicious pizza we’ve ever tasted, to enjoying an amazing vegan chocolate gelato, the Borgo district is definitely not to be missed.

Castel Sant’Angelo

Originally built as the mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 139 AD, the Castel Sant’Angelo is a wonderful destination for kids. From the playground at the base of the fortress to the maze of dark tunnels to explore, it gives visitors of all ages the chance to soak up art, history, and some commanding views from the top. In the 14th century the Vatican converted the structure to a castle (the Pope even has a covered fortified corridor that leads from Vatican City to the castle), and the military fortifications only add to the list of things to explore during a visit.

Pizzarium by Gabriele Bonci
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If you are looking a pizza that is creative, delicious,and reasonably priced, then Pizzarium is the place for you. Chef Gabriele Bonci uses a dizzying array of vegetable (and also meat and cheese) combinations to make the mouths of vegans and non-vegans alike water. The pizzas coming out of the oven are constantly changing and always a surprise; we had the pleasure to sample a pumpkin cabbage pizza as well as a roasted eggplant and basil pizza. While there is no fixed seating, there are plenty of stools available for an impromptu pizza picnic on the sidewalk.

Chocolate Fondant Gelato at Lemongrass
DSC05670-picsayWe’ve had some good vegan gelato while in Rome, but the chocolate fondant flavor at Lemongrass rises above the rest. There were lots of flavors of dairy and vegan gelato to choose from, and combining the fruit flavors (banana, strawberry, etc.) with the chocolate fondant can’t be beat. And given its strategic location between the Pizzarium and Castel Sant’Angelo, there are many opportunities to sample different flavor combinations while in transit between these other sites and/or en route to the Cipro or Lepanto Metro stops. 

 

Black Cats, Scary Good Tiramisu, and Other Halloween Highlights

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Starting the day with Halloween cards made by Nana Five and Nana Banana.

For our Halloween in Rome, the Younger Fives took the lead to plan our day. Each chose a different destination, and we made plenty of noise to ward of bad spirits by pounding the pavement from the Colosseum north to Largo di Torre Argentina, Piazza Navona, The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and finally Piazza Barberini. It’s a good thing the only Trick-or-Treating we did was virtual fundraising for UNICEF; otherwise, we never could have made it the whole way with loot in tow!

High Five’s Destination: Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary

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Cats have free reign over these ancient ruins.

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How can black cats be bad luck when they are so cute and cuddly?

How can black cats be bad luck when they are so cute and cuddly?

 

Five of Heart’s Destination: Vegan Tiramisu at Universo Vegano (Piazzo di Paradiso)

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Tiramisu beats candy any day!

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The kids’ third tiramisu was the most memorable as it was given to us on the house as we left the restaurant. They wasted no time digging right in!

 

Five Ball’s Destination: Piazza Navona

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All the running water gave us a fright as there was no public bathroom in sight!

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Other stops along the way – The Pantheon, Piazza Colonna, and Piazza Barberini
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The Garden of Vegan Delights

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All dressed up for our big night on the town.

We Fives are pretty spoiled. Traveling around the world, we always have an amazing cook and travel companion right there at our side, creating amazing vegan dishes and baked goods with an unpredictable supply of ingredients and cooking appliances. To her credit, Five Spice has made some of our favorite dishes in the most unforgiving of circumstances; St. Anthony Sliders came from having only chick peas to work with as a protein in Northern Newfoundland and Microwave Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies arose from having no oven to bake with in San Cristóbal de las Casas. The only disadvantage of her great cooking (if there is one) is that visiting restaurants can be somewhat disappointing. No matter how good the food is, we usually end up concluding that we have just spent extra money on something Five Spice has already made or could make at home. Much to our delight though, we have just found an amazing restaurant here in Mérida that provides an incredible dining experience worth every peso.

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This unassuming entrance (on Calle 55 between Calle 64 and 66) is home to the best restaurant in Merida (#1 on TripAdvisor) and our new favorite place to dine.

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The lush courtyard opens up to an ideal spot for relaxed dining: a patio garden surrounding an inviting swimming pool.

 Lo Que Hay Cafe is unlike any restaurant we’ve had the pleasure to encounter in our two years of travel. It came onto our radar through TripAdvisor, where it is #1 out of over 340 restaurants in Mérida (not too shabby for a restaurant that has an entirely plant-based menu). Intrigued, we knew we had to check out Lo Que Hay Cafe for ourselves. We were surprised to learn they have a different fixed menu each night highlighting a certain country’s cuisine (check out their Facebook page for the current offering). We worried a little about how the kids would do with not being able to order their own particular dish, but the fact that we went on a Friday when they had two different options (Indian and Mexican in our case) convinced us the kids would have enough to choose from.

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The view from our table.

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Five of Hearts savoring every bite of her favorite food, tacos and guacamole.

DSC04479-picsayFrom the moment we rang the bell at the street entrance, a truly magical evening unfolded. After ensuring the kids would be okay with the menu format (no special orders or kid’s menu), the host led us through a beautiful courtyard to a lovely patio, open to the evening sky and surrounded by fruit trees. We took a table a little removed from everyone else and settled in as the waiter brought us the night’s themed beverage, a refreshing cardamom drink over ice. We soon ordered, and within minutes the first courses arrived (a corn, ginger, and coconut cream soup from the Indian menu and a vegan ceviche from the Mexican menu). We were astonished at how quickly the food arrived (definitely a big plus when dining with hungry kids), but our astonishment did not stop there. Our waiter struck an amazing balance between keeping the dishes coming out, without ever being intrusive or making us feel pressured. The food was truly out of this world, expertly prepared by chef Cecilia Loría Mafud. Left to our own leisurely pace, we ended up spending hours enjoying the amazing cuisine in the wonderfully relaxing environment.

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Enjoying some family book time by the last rays of daylight (we find packing books is always a good idea wherever we go).

Our time at Lo Que Hay Cafe could not have been more perfect. It gave the Younger Fives a chance to try out some new dishes and the Older Fives a chance to relax and unwind (which doesn’t happen too often during mealtime, at least in our house). We were treated to some great conversation with the restaurant’s owner, who spent quite a bit of time at our table asking about our travels and telling the story of how the restaurant came to be. And, as with any meal, the perfect ending was dessert, a mango sorbet made with the fruit of the 100-year-old tree growing right in the patio. As the evening came to a close and we said our goodbyes to the fantastic staff, it was Five Ball who put it best; he turned to the owner and exclaimed, “This is the best restaurant I’ve ever been to!”

Guest Post: Vegan San Cristóbal

Te Quiero Verde

We are pleased to report a first for the Fives. We have just completed our first guest post, an article at Anywheretraveler.com on eating vegan in San Cristobal de las Casas . We first came across the couple behind the site about a month ago while researching vegan eating options in Italy, and we contacted them with a few questions. They were very friendly and generous in answering our many inquiries, and we have stayed in touch ever since. We plan to share some of their many insights about Italy here on our blog before we travel to Rome this fall.

We hope you check out the full article using the link below.

http://www.anywheretraveler.com/vegan-cristobal-mexico/