5 Must-Try Foods in Galicia, Spain

What comes to mind when you think of Spain? Flamenco, bullfighting, paella, or Picasso? What about lush and, green rolling hillsides, relics of Celtic culture, bagpipes, or seafood aplenty? Unbeknownst to many, Spain is home to various Spanish cultures, each with their history, tradition, cuisine, and language. Nowhere is that more obvious than in Galicia, and nowhere is culture more present than in the foods of Galicia. 

Galicia is located in the northwest of Spain, bordered by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. It is an autonomous community characterized by picturesque green landscapes, wild beaches, and varying weather. Unlike most of Spain (especially the south), where evidence of Arabic influence is seen, Galicia has a connection to Roman and Celtic ancestors. The remnants of these ancient societies are present today. They’re represented not only in the ruins that were left behind but, for example, in the gaita gallega, an instrument similar to bagpipes. You won’t hear Castilian Spanish spoken throughout the region. Instead, you’re more likely to hear Gallego, another language spoken in Spain. 

What’s my connection to Galicia? If you’ve read my other pieces for Dreams Abroad, you might remember that my parents are from Spain. Specifically, they are from two small towns in the province of Ourense, which is in Galicia. When I was little, I spent my summers shuffling between these two pueblos (village or town), tending to farm animals, picking potatoes (hated this!), and walking through the green mountains. I experienced the culture of Galicia firsthand on my visits, but also in my home in Toronto, Canada, where my parents maintained their cultural traditions.  


Perhaps the closest connection I felt to Galicia in Toronto was through my parents’ cooking. Galicia is well known for having some of the heartiest and best food in Spain. Gallegos (people native to Galicia) really know how to eat! If you find yourself road-tripping through the region, here are five traditional must-eats that will leave your tastebuds begging for more.

1. Pulpo a Feira (a.k.a. Pulpo a la Gallega)

The word Pulpo means octopus in Spanish and feira means fair, as in the town fair. Why the fair? Because it’s the best place to grab this traditional Galician dish. Don’t sweat it if there isn’t a fair during your visit. Most restaurants will have it on the menu. It’s simple and delicious. It consists of cooked octopus (the cauldron it is boiled in is believed to add to the distinct flavour), served on top of boiled potatoes with olive oil and paprika on a wooden board. Pair the dish with a glass of red wine and a crusty baguette. My family always told me not to drink water when eating octopus to it avoid bloat. This might just be a Perez family belief, but it is a rule I have never broken.

The best place to get pulpo a feira is in Carballiño. I’ve heard that the water that the pulperas use gives the dish a distinct, delectable taste. It’s one of the best examples of unique staple food from Galicia.

2. Seafood

Having the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Bay of Biscay (Mar Cantábrico) to the north makes Galicia one of the best places in Spain to eat fresh seafood.  

Of the shellfish variety, do try percebes (barnacles), necoras (small crabs caught in Las Riás Baixas, rivers that stretch from Vigo up to Fisterra), razor clams, scallops, and mussels (a la vinagreta or stuffed). If you want a little bit of everything, order a mariscada (a varied seafood platter).

If you prefer fish, I suggest robadallo a la gallega, which is seared and broiled in white wine sauce and usually served with potatoes and carrots. I also suggest merluza or bacalao a la gallega. Sofrito is made in a frying pan and poured over the fish.

Whatever you fancy, Galician seafood will never disappoint.

3. Filloas

Of all the traditional foods from Galicia that are in this article, filloas are the only ones that my parents never made. I have only tried them while in Galicia. Sources differ on the origin of the filloa. Some say they were introduced by the Celts, and others by the Romans. Whoever first created them, filloas are worth savoring while in Galicia.

Simply put, filloas are crepes that can be sweet or savory. You can eat them all year round, but they are typically made during Carnival season (Carnival is a big deal in some Galician towns, and is often observed as a period of celebration preceding Lent’s period of fasting). Filloas can be accompanied by honey, jam, and fruit, but there are more savory fillings. It’s said the original recipe used pig’s blood in the batter! Whatever your taste, you will find a filloa that best suits you.

4. Empanadas

One of my fondest memories of spending the summers in either my mom’s or dad’s hometown in Galicia was getting freshly baked empanadas delivered by the town baker. Empanada gallega is a salty pie filled with your choice of ingredients and baked in the oven.  Many people pick them up or order them from their local baker. In my dad’s town, my mom and aunts would often prepare the empanada filling at home, deliver it to the baker, and then they would complete the baking process. This ensured that the baker didn’t skimp on the filling.

You can try many kinds of empanadas most typical in Galicia are chicken, tuna, beef, zorza, (the inside of the chorizo), and zamburiñas, which are a type of scallop. It’s one of the best foods found in Galicia!

5. Caldo Gallego

This last dish is my idea of comfort food. There are many types of stews and soups in Galicia, but my favourite by far is caldo gallego. It’s best on a cold day in winter and accompanied by a nice, crusty bread. It’s a simple, hearty soup that takes time, but the wait is well worth it. Caldo gallego is one of my favourites, and I would argue that my mom’s is the best! 

The broth is flavoured with ham, chorizo, and beef, and then white beans, potatoes and berzas are added. In my opinion, it gives the broth of the soup a delicious and distinctive taste. My mom often substitutes berzas with grelos. Both options are acceptable and delightful!


From My Mom’s Kitchen

As I mentioned, my parents are from Galicia, and happen to be wonderful cooks. I’d like to share one of my favourite home recipes with you: my mom’s vieras (oven-baked scallops).  I try to never miss a Christmas holiday at home in Toronto with my family. On New Year’s Eve, my mom always asks what my sisters and I would like for dinner, and vieras are what we request. In recent years, I’ve asked my mom to teach me how to make them. Along with being a wonderful cook, she is also a great teacher. I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

Vieras (Makes 12)


12 scallops (frozen or fresh), cut them in half if they’re large

24 shrimps (frozen or fresh), peeled and cut in half

200 grams crab meat, cut into pieces

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, diced

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 ½  tablespoon cornstarch

Milk, to cover mixture

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt, black pepper and garlic powder, to taste

Bread crumbs

12 scallop shells (for serving)


In a large skillet on medium heat, add the olive oil and the onions. Sauté until translucent. Add a bit of salt to release the water from the onions, then add the garlic and sauté for five minutes.

Add the scallops. Sauté for five minutes. Then add shrimp and cook for about five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (remember you already added salt to the onions!). Mix in the crab meat, cook for five minutes, and add some garlic powder to taste.

Now add the cornstarch and stir. Add enough milk to cover the mixture, stirring until it thickens. If the mixture appears to be too thick, add a bit more milk. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley.

Fill the scallop shells with the mixture. Top with bread crumbs, about one and a half teaspoons each. Bake in the oven at 400º C until brown on top (about 15 to 20 minutes).  



I attribute my love of eating to genetics. The food in Galicia is what connects us as Gallegos, even across continents. I have yet to meet a person with Gallego blood who is not happiest when sitting around the table with good food, drinks, and friends. The next time you find yourself in Spain, take a trip up north to Galicia. Your wanderlust (and taste buds) won’t be disappointed. 

Can’t get enough of Spain’s adventures? If you are traveling to Seville, Spain, don’t miss these 10 must-try foods!

How to Find the Best Food in Town

Chef DeniseIf you are like me, whether you are traveling to a new city or relocating to a new country, one of your top priorities will be finding the best food in town. That does not necessarily mean high-end gourmet cuisine; those places are usually easy enough to find. To me, it means discovering great food at an affordable price. For example, traditional cuisine at neighborhood haunts, local street foods, hidden-gem restaurants, and authentic sources for regional ingredients. 

I realize that, as a chef, food may be more important to me than to others. However, no matter where you are, you have to eat, right? Depending on your destination, finding affordable local food can be surprisingly overwhelming. You can certainly Google “best food in town near me” and take your chances. Or, you can try some of these tips that will help you find good, affordable food no matter where you are.

How to Find the Best Food in Town

Talk to Strangers

Talking to strangers can sometimes lead to the best memories. While traveling in Croatia, my husband and I began chatting with a man on the funicular in Zagreb, the shortest funicular in the world. He wound up inviting us to a wedding that night, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. 

While going to a Croatian wedding was not our primary goal, getting information was. We were asking if he could suggest something for us to do that wasn’t very touristy. Ask the locals for recommendations and you will find almost anything. 

If you’re not apt to flag someone down on the street for a recommendation, you will be in many situations where striking up a conversation is easy. For example, if you are waiting in line someplace, you can ask someone for a good place for lunch. Or ask if they have tried the café on the corner, or maybe where the best place is for the local dish. Maybe if you take a cab or rideshare, ask the driver. Do not pass up opportunities to learn from the locals.

Visit Local Food Markets

Local food markets can be your best source of regional ingredients from herbs and spices, to meats and cheeses. Usually frequented by locals, these markets offer staples for home meals, restaurateurs and chefs, and, of course, tourists. Ask the vendors about restaurants: they know what the chefs are buying.

Sometimes called farmer’s markets, depending on where you are, the market may be something that gets set up and torn down once a week or more. They may have food trucks or food vendors selling prepared foods and snacks. It will quickly become obvious which ones are the most popular. 

Many cities have markets in permanent structures that bustle daily with locals eating a quick meal or grabbing what they need for dinner. If your city has one of these markets, go there as soon as you can! You may even find it has everything you need. For example, Mercato di Mezzo in Bologna, Italy has a great selection of regional products, prepared meals, and plenty of snacks. I could have easily spent all day there. 

Some of these food markets are even famous for their street snacks, like the Taipei night markets which light up evenings in Taiwan’s capital. These have stalls that run into triple figures. With hundreds of food stalls to choose from, you can satiate yourself on local specialties pretty cheaply. 

Buy from Street Food Vendors

It can be nice to have hundreds of street food options under one market roof. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes you’ll find street food sold from mobile trucks or carts, like the ones in Mexico, Turkey, and Thailand. Or from the open, street-facing windows from more permanent stalls often seen in China and Japan. Wherever you are, there is probably some sort of street food that will make for a good meal, provide good value, and offer a good representation of regional fare. 

Attend Festivals

They don’t have to be a food festival per se. While listening to music, dancing, or exploring arts and crafts, attending festivals gives a glimpse into the culture of its people. Yet it also usually offers insight into the food culture as well. 

I spent a month in the South of Spain. It seemed every week one of the small towns was jubilantly celebrating the grape harvest with a Fiesta de la Vendimia. It felt like I attended them all. In between the traditional flamenco dances, I discovered a few foods I otherwise wouldn’t have, like Málaga grapes. They were plump, juicy, sweet green grapes like I never had before. Food stalls selling everything from home-baked goodies to restaurant meals can provide a wealth of information on what to eat in the area. And it’s a good place to talk to locals and possibly make a new friend.

Search for Group Meals

All over the world there are opportunities to pay to eat a home-cooked meal in a group setting. These are a little controversial depending on the city, but they are enjoyable and afford interaction with others who may be like-minded about good food. Another way to have a group meal is to take a food tour or cooking class if you can. Sometimes you can find tours at the local food markets. These will help you more quickly identify ingredients and the famous foods of the area.

Do Your Research

My website, Chef Denise, offers information about global foods: regional specialties, street foods, restaurant recommendations, and even some recipes for some of the dishes. And even I use other online sources when I write about food. For me, the most reliable is the Michelin Guide. Not for the three-star fancy fine dining, but for their Bib Gourmand recommendations. Some of the street food stalls at the Taipei night markets are even listed. These are places Michelin considers good value, pretty much the essence of the best food in town. 

Final Thoughts

Chef Denise takes a break to enjoy the best food in town.

Whether you’re moving to a foreign country or traveling to a new city, finding the best food in town can be a fun adventure. Keep in mind that you may be exposed to things you are not used to consuming. If this is the case, and you’re not willing to eat something, you do not need to give a reason (no insulting words like gross or disgusting needed), just politely decline. But if you are feeling adventurous, try as many new foods as you can.

by Denise Macuk of Chef Denise

International Food Brings Joy to Your Tastebuds

With what we have collectively gone through this past year, we all can use a little happiness in any shape or form these days, especially in the form of international food. I always knew I loved experiences more than material things. Jennifer Dukes Lee’s The Happiness Dare confirmed it. Duke welcomed me to the “club of the beauty seekers, adventurers, and pay-attentioners,” sealing my “enthusiasm of a child and a deep sense of wonder finding supreme happiness by engaging in meaningful moments.” It reaffirmed what I have been saying for as long as I can remember, “You don’t look for happiness in a store — you look for it in moments.”  

C’mon Get Happy

This mindset explains why both my websites, Cook With Zee and Around the Bay and Away, revolve around my two passions of international food and travel. Although one can argue that food is material, the consumption and enjoyment of it is experiential. Once consumed, it is no longer tangible.  

One positive consequence for those of us who draw happiness from experiences is that it tends to last longer. We experience anticipatory happiness when planning. Then, experiential happiness happens when the moment has arrived. Finally, residual happiness when we reflect and remember those wonderful moments upon our return for both our travels and food adventures locally. Food plays a big part in all three especially with the pandemic limiting our physical travel capabilities. 

Anticipatory Happiness

In a previous post I wrote almost five years ago, How to Deal with Culture Shock, I encouraged my readers to seek out a restaurant close to home that serves the cuisine of their next destination. It helps to get a taste for the food before embarking on their adventure. However, not everyone is lucky enough to live as close to diverse international food offerings as the Bay Area. Making a dish yourself is a great alternative that can be done from your own kitchen. In fact, after purchasing a Norwegian cookbook and a gift card to the Nordic House to buy imported ingredients, the bride touted this bridal shower gift as one of the most thoughtful she received, as they were going to Norway for their honeymoon.

I have been thinking about my epidemiologist friend a lot this past year. The current environment reminds me of her years in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest researching her dissertation. She introduced us to our first taste of Peruvian food once she returned stateside. Always wanting to see Peru for myself, it was fitting that the first Peruvian dish I tried, Aji de Gallina, was one she recommended, followed shortly by a second, Papa a la Huancaina, to give me a taste of what is to come. 

Embrace International Food’s Simplicity

Food does not have to be over-complicated. In some instances, recipes are merely a regional twist on a classic such as an egg sandwich. The Korean Egg Stuffed Garlic Toast Breakfast Sandwich, popular at Seoul’s Egg Drop is right up my alley. I may have salivated just watching the video of how to make it. After getting the Kewpie mayo for it, I decided to also make the Tamago Sando. This dish is so popular in Japan that, according to my cousin who went the year before, is available at the local 7-11. I was able to bring the taste of Seoul and Japan straight to my home. 

Experiential Happiness

Escargots, barramundi, and emu, oh my! Nothing against McDonald’s but unless they have a local specific product (Hello, limited-time Haupia Pie), I recommend experiencing what each region specializes in and look for restaurants that locals frequent. Even within the US, it’s always exciting to look out for regional specialties. Give Colorado’s buffalo ribeye and huckleberry glazed ribs or Arizona’s fried Indian tacos and prickly pear fries a try when you can. If you have always wanted to try escargots or paella, what better place than in Paris or Valencia? Sample dim sum in Hong Kong and if you are adventurous, Australia’s endemic kangaroo and emu. For the less adventurous, try their barramundi fish. Order the Italian Riviera’s anchovies and pesto-based dishes while taking advantage of Naples’ authentic pizza.  

Even back in 2004, lunch was the most important meal of the day for Italians. It is not uncommon to polish off an entire pizza. This 110-pound girl was only one slice shy of doing just that in Lombardy’s Bellagio. Authentic Italian pizza has thin crust and is topped with a mere two to three ingredients. There is no such thing as this combo stuff. Their popular margherita is simply topped with fresh basil, tomatoes, cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil. The pizza I just could not stop eating was layered with just funghi and prosciutto.

Long Dinners on the Italian Coast

Dinner in Italy often lasts a few hours, unwinding with family and friends after a long day. Although unheard of in America where restauranteurs encourage fast turnover of tables, Italians commonly have a table for the entire evening. After we discovered this during our stay along the Italian Riviera, we felt thrilled to capitalize on this Italian cultural norm. During one of those languid evenings, I enjoyed a pesto minestrone for the first time. I fell head over heels in love with the recipe and have since recreated it myself many times. 

In the Liguria region’s quiet Deiva Marina, I noticed locals all around us leisurely socializing over wine and food. Those who may have opted for heavier lunches went for lighter dinners of antipasti while other tables had a full course with a primi (often a pasta), secondi (fish or meat), and finishing off with dessert, dolci. Whatever you choose, what was most memorable was that unrushed feeling. It was such a refreshing luxury for us, but the norm for them.  

Buy Local and Support the Local Economy

When visiting any locale, do not run for the nearest chain store. Avoid purchasing an item you can probably find at home. Instead, seek international food items that are specific to that area and preferably made at your destination, like pesto from Liguria. What better way to bring back memories of your Tahitian honeymoon than smoothing on a tiare-scented Monoi oil after a shower or breathing in the scent of their world-famous Tahitian Gold Vanilla while cooking?

The chances are you will also get a chance to interact with the locals. They may even give you some of their favorite recommendations. You’ll walk away with a “souvenir” that is priceless, such as an ingredient to help you gain residual happiness. 

Residual Happiness

Food also allows me to relive those memories by recreating a dish we had during our travels. Our 20th anniversary was this past October. Unfortunately, our plans to return to the area of France we went to for part of our honeymoon did not materialize, nor did our annual trip to my happiest place on Earth, Maui. We have spent our anniversaries for the past 16 years soaking up the Hawaiian sun. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be in the cards this year.

Although we were on a budget for our honeymoon in our 20s, recreating simple international food recipes like socca, a chickpea flatbread, and pan bagnat, a particularly tempting sandwich filled with salade niçoise, hard-boiled eggs, and tuna, brought me back to sunny Nice. The feeling of strolling along the Promenade des Anglais overlooking the Mediterranean Sea is not easily forgotten. It always makes me reminisce about the funny incident where I asked in broken French if the tuna was raw or cooked, only to discover it was canned. 

Looking Forward

Having to actually cancel each component of our Maui anniversary trip, which we had planned since February, was like a punch in the gut. Nonetheless, I brought Maui to me through the dishes I recreated myself, such as Loco Moco, Spam Musubis Three Ways, and Lau Laus. Plus, I did my part to support the Maui economy from afar by ordering papayas, chocolates, and pineapple-infused spirits. It will help lift our spirits until we can return again, hopefully, this year.


Although travel has been limited, we can still find happiness in the present. We must enjoy the whole journey in anticipation of what is to come. What better way to do that by trying your hand at making some international food? Tucked away in the subtle moments of reflection, we can find happiness in the quiet reminiscence of our past experiences.

by Joyce Zee

How to Do Veganuary Whether Home or Away

It’s January, so how about starting off the new year in the best possible way? When you travel, even if it’s only a staycation, I hope these tips come in handy. But you can celebrate Veganuary wherever you are in the world. It’s a journey in its own right as you take an adventurous, compassionate, and healthy step onto a cleaner, greener, and leaner path. For those of you newcomers, welcome. Pat yourself on the back and let’s walk through some tips, shall we?

Tip 1: Search for Vegan-Friendly Hotels 

There are few exclusively vegan hotels. Scotland’s Saorsa 1875, for example, was the first fully plant-based hotel to open in the United Kingdom back in June 2019. Although not quite a castle, its Victorian baronial exterior is so very Scottish Highlands. Everything on the food and drink menu is 100% free of fish (did you know most winemakers use isinglass, as in dried fish swim bladders as a filter for clarification purposes?) and fowl etc.

Use your search engine of choice to find other hotels worldwide. The selection surely would have risen more were it not for the COVID-19 outbreak. But perhaps your preferred destination hasn’t caught up with the zeitgeist yet. No fear, you will still be able to find vegan-friendly options.

Try vegan restaurants for Veganuary
Vegan food is culinary art at its most cutting edge

One of the positive benefits of the pandemic has been more clearly-defined buffets. Gone are the days when fellow guests could messily cross-contaminate the offerings by haphazardly adding egg to the beetroot, say, or clumsily spilling cheese all over the pasta. Stricter controls mean you request hotel staff to serve you what you want, lessening the risk of careless spooning.

Tip 2: Research Places to Eat Out On Your Travels

Even if your accommodation isn’t particularly plant-based in its offerings, there will invariably be a more sympathetic restaurant nearby. Consult the Tripadvisor-like Happy Cow which collates user reviews once you have a destination in mind. The site includes opening hours and pricing ratings exclusively for vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

One doesn’t always choose where one goes. Perhaps you are traveling for business and there aren’t many vegan places nearby. There is a solution. You can always ask a chef to substitute an ingredient for another to ensure a dish is plant-based. If you do this ahead of time, it’s more likely to be guaranteed.

One of my happiest memories was spreading almogrote (spicy cheese paste) onto bread sat on a stool in Bar Sonia, Chipude, La Gomera. At the time, I was a vegetarian. Imagine my delight when the chef at Silken Saaj Las Palmas’ in-house Goa Gastrobar, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria promised to make me a vegan version of this Canarian classic on my return (sadly the COVID-19 outbreak has scuppered my going back so far).

The Goa Gastrobar
All the colors of the Silken Saaj Las Palmas’ Goa Gastrobar

Tip 3: Don’t Blindly Trust in a Menu Whether Home or Away

Restaurant menus have come a long way. Many now list ingredients accompanied by allergy warnings. However, eateries are not legally obliged to do so, which means some menus are more comprehensive than others.

Beware of false friends on the language front. A sandwich vegetal, a popular Spanish bar snack, isn’t a vegetable sandwich but a salad one, which usually goes heavy on the egg, mayo, and tuna. Ask for this “sin atun, huevo, y mayonesa” to avoid any eggy/fishy mishaps.

What appears vegan isn’t necessarily so. On a press trip to cover a Champions’ League football game in Porto, for example, I converted a typical kidney bean and rice side dish into a main. Of course, I only ate it after I had the kitchen confirm to me they cooked the rice in a vegetable stock.

Tip 4: Prepare to Stay Vegan

I acclimatized quite easily to becoming a vegan in my teens. That was mainly because I had turned vegetarian at seven. Although I preferred the taste of cheese and eggs to fish and meat, I failed to experience hunger pangs for post-dessert Stilton or omelette or suffered withdrawal symptoms.

What I would recommend is that you pack some miniaturized staples in your luggage. I’m one of Telegraph Travel’s Canary Islands hotel reviewers and I’m always shown around the hotel by a member of staff. However, I like to talk to guests independently. This helps me get a wider picture of the establishment. I remember doing so at the Sheraton in Fuerteventura. There, a couple of Brits enthused about the manager sourcing Marmite for them.

The Sheraton Fuerteventura, a vegan-friendly hotel.
The grand new Sheraton Fuerteventura Beach, Golf & Spa Resort

You expect that attention to detail in service at such a classy hotel. However, my advice would be to bring your own. If you forget your mineral and vitamin supplements, be advised that outside the UK they tend to be sold in chemists (pharmacies, for our American readers) rather than supermarkets.

Tip 5: Rise Above the Critics

Social media brings out the worst in people. It’s like one long bridge where a legion of trolls regularly accosts a trail of billy goats gruff. And if you’re vegan, you can expect to receive ire from the haters.

Newbie vegans and those celebrating Veganuary can take comfort from occupying the moral high ground. If humans continue to follow an omnivore diet, it’s goodbye Planet Earth. Chopping down rainforests to create more land for pasture just isn’t sustainable in the long term nor is the overuse of resources such as light and water.

The Good Food Institute’s Executive Director Bruce Friedrich gave an excellent TED Talk about how the world’s continuing yearning for meaty flavours ultimately spells extinction of the human race. Unless plant-based meat is developed to more closely resemble the taste and texture of animal-sourced protein or research into cell-based meat (grown artificially in a lab) creates an affordable and authentic alternative. As a new vegan, you are creating demand which will result in supply and a happier, healthier Planet Earth.

Hit up local vegan restaurants for Veganuary
Love burgers, love lasagna? Try the vegan versions!


The Beginning of Veganuary

Veganuary only started in 2014. It’s definitely raised consciousness around the world. As different cultures embrace the concept of veganism and adapt traditional recipes into cruelty-free versions.

I wish it had existed in the early 1990s when I was studying in the Czech Republic. I left the UK as a vegetarian and came back a meat eater, such was the paucity of flesh-free dishes on the East European country restaurant’s menus. Interestingly, Eastern Europe has become a vegan hot spot with Poland’s Krakow firmly established as one of the world’s premier plant-based cities.

Delicious vegan food waits during Veganuary
Can I get flowers on that?

Veganuary is more than a fad and it provides the building blocks for a new you. It’s a transformational process which sees you swap contributing to the mean practices of the slaughterhouse/dairy farm to achieving a lean physique. As longtime followers of a plant-based diet, we encourage you to stay the course, and once you’ve managed 31 days, well what’s 31 years? Together, if we all pull in the right direction, we can do this.

Introducing 2020’s Mid-Year Most Popular Travel Articles

We are halfway through 2020! A couple of years ago, we started publishing a mid-year review to see which articles were read the most. This has been an interesting year so far and thanks to you, our Dreams Abroad community, we are proud to release our mid-year review. Here are your favorite articles of the first half of 2020 to remind you which topics were at the top six months ago. 

So far, 2020 has been a year filled with backpacking, travel tales, teaching in Cambodia, and the impact of COVID-19 on our team in different countries. We are pleased to share our most popular travel articles with you.

How I Traveled to Cambodia and Stayed to Teach

In this illuminating interview, Ed Gagnon caught up with Michael Carter, a fellow Canadian he met while Michael was working in the restaurant industry. Ed explains Michael’s affliction for wanderlust coupled with his move to southeast Asia in 2000. Michael has been living, teaching, and traveling abroad for 20 years. 

Traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodi Travel Articles

If you would like to know more about how to stay and teach in Cambodia, this is undoubtedly a great travel article to read. Since this interview, Michael Carter has joined our team. Be sure to check out Michael’s second interview as well as his own articles. 

Why Everyone Should Try Backpacking Southeast Asia

Why Everyone Should Try Backpacking Southeast Asia

Emma Higgins taught in Phuket, Thailand for a year before deciding to backpack around southeast Asia for three months before heading home to the United States. In this article, she gives 10 reasons why you should backpack around southeast Asia. Emma discusses some of the cultural complexities that transform you into an especially strong traveler. In addition, she points out how you’ll learn new languages, the many different foods you’ll encounter, and how to get out of your comfort zone and discover a new one. 

The Multifaceted Effects of Coronavirus in Our Education System

children being creative

Bebe Bakhtiar is a teacher who has been working during the COVID-19 pandemic. She takes a moment to shed some light and share her concerns about the impact of the virus in addition to what its impact will have on our international education system. This article covers the positive and negative effects of the Coronavirus on students and teachers. In this powerful piece, Bebe urges all community leaders to fight harder for our education system and its teachers. 

Arriving in Mexico City

Arriving in Mexico City

Tyler Black read about Leesa Truesdell’s trip to Mexico City and decided he wanted to also visit, too. Upon arrival, he talks about the view from the plane and how large the city is. He arrives in Mexico City and discusses the first day of his itinerary. Tyler certainly enjoys tasting the local food, touring the downtown city center, and seeing the nightlife. He provides recommendations for a taco and churrería in the city — be sure not to miss this article. Anthony Bourdain ate at the same street taco vendor! 

My Tour of Paris by Night

Moulin Rouge in paris

Leesa Truesdell shares her tour of Paris by night. She talks about the rippling effects of her canceled flight through a series of articles. In this last piece of the series, she spends a very special birthday touring Paris, living a dream she had had for years. This article talks about the different places she explored with her tour guide and the different ways to approach Paris at night (if you are a beginner). If you enjoy reading about Leesa’s solo travel adventures, then this one is a must-read. It has been one of her most popular travel articles. 

Mid-Year 2020 Best Travel Articles

Be on the lookout for our annual review coming in December 2020. You (our readers) decide who makes the top five by reading our content. Each time you read or click on a post, we appreciate it. Thank you so much for reading and being part of our community. If there are other things you would like to know from any of our writers, please send us an e-mail or leave a comment. We will share your feedback with them.

by Leesa Truesdell

Touring Rome Like a Roman

Check out my last article about our big day in Venice!

Trevi Fountain

In the late afternoon Italian sun, we arrived at our monastery-turned-luxe-hotel somewhere in the suburbs of Rome. With some time to kill, Dounia and I walked to a nearby park that reminded me of NYC’s Central Park. After walking through an unquestionably picturesque field of flowers, across a local creek, and to a small pond filled with turtles, we decided to head back for the walking tour.

Hello, Rome

We took a bus into the city center, where Nikos began the traditional introductory walking tour. He pointed out major sites and gave tips on how to get around. He led us through narrow alleys filled with restaurant tables and souvenir tables. We visited the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and even the Piazza Navona! They all seemed jammed packed with sweaty tourists just like me, desperate for a picture. After splitting up for dinner, we made our own ways back to the hotel for yet another early morning.




We woke up bright and early for a continental breakfast, one of my favorite parts of my days abroad (no joke, I have paragraphs upon paragraphs dedicated to the breakfast quality of each place we stayed). After breakfast, we followed Nikos to a traditional market square where we met an Australian woman and another tour group. We had all signed up for a pasta-making excursion. We were led through a winding apartment building. After so, so, so many stairs, we emerged onto a covered rooftop terrace with an undeniably great view of Rome’s skyline and a few chefs.

A Lesson in Italian Cuisine

After a lesson in the many distinct variations of olive oil (one that leaves me an olive oil prude to this day), we sipped on some white wine and began working on our pasta. We mixed the egg and flour together to create our pasta dough. With a dash of olive oil, we began kneading. I had used too little flour initially and wound up getting dough all over my hands – a trend that continues to this day in all my bread-making endeavors. Nobody heard my cries for flour until a chef spotted me and teased me.

handmade pasta

After rolling them into balls, we wrapped them in saran wrap and allowed them to cool. We watched the chefs make traditional marinara sauce in the meantime. Once we received our dough once more, we flattened it out and put them through the pasta maker to make fettuccine. After boiling everyone’s pasta, voila! Lunch was served!

Newsflash: Italy Is Just As Hot As Florida

After lunch, we made our way to the Roman Colosseum. We had to hurry, because we planned to meet the rest of our group there. The pasta excursion had taken longer than expected. We finally arrived out of breath and dripping with sweat. One of the most unexpected things about Europe was that its heat index matched Florida’s. I had always assumed the entirety of Europe was this pristine 70°F garden.



After meeting the group, we waited in one of the Colosseum’s many tunnels, which funneled a very welcome breeze. We met up with a tour guide, who began to talk about the undeniably rich history of this infamous arena. He explained that the reason why the Rome Colosseum was pock-marked was because over the centuries, people had come to steal the valuable metals that were encased in the stone. He also explained that the Colosseum was made of travertine that had been stacked onto itself, held together only by gravity. This explained why the bottom of the Colosseum looked like a maze of ruins: they had been a series of tunnels underneath the floor of the arena to get from side to side.

After noticing a few sun burns (i.e., me), our guide let us put some sunscreen on before we headed to the Rome Forum, which I’ll talk about in my next post!

Roman Colosseum
Roman Colosseum’s Tunnels.


Colosseum tour



Ten Days Traveling in Peru

Continuing My Adventure Traveling Peru

by Tyler Black

This is part two of a four-part series. Click here to read part one.

Day 2

I woke up early on Monday morning, eager to begin another hectic day of traveling Peru. I walked down to the coast to get breakfast with my new friends and check out the Pacific Ocean. After enjoying a crepe and some orange juice, we made our way back to the hostel, packed up our things, and said our goodbyes. Since Sarah and I had the same flight (if you remember from part one), we decided to share a taxi to the airport. Everything was going smoothly until we had to pay 60 soles for not printing out our tickets. If you fly Vivaair, keep this in mind. Once boarded, I found myself seated in the middle seat of the last row of the plane, so I enjoyed a nice sixty-minute flight with my knees down my throat. Gotta love being tall!

Arriving in Cusco

Now, I love flying more than anyone (I wanted to be a pilot when I was younger) but this might have been the biggest white-knuckle flight I’ve ever taken. You see, Cusco is nestled in the Andes Mountains, making it impossible for planes to just simply fly in straight on. When I heard our landing gear going down, I looked out the window to see us flying in between two humongous, majestic mountains. If that wasn’t bad enough, our pilot then made a sharp left turn (which lasted way too long) before leveling out right over the runaway and putting us down. I typically hate people who clap when their plane lands, but that little maneuver almost had me applauding. Bravo, señor piloto. Bravo.

Now that I was in Cusco, it was time for the moment of truth: how would my body handle the altitude change? The minute the doors to the plane opened, I could feel how much thinner the air was. I was breathing a little bit more rapidly than normal and my chest was a tad tight. Luckily, I had the coca leaves readily available and started to chew on a few. I would later find out that the best method is to put 15 leaves in your mouth and chew for five minutes with a ten to fifteen-minute break in between. Nonetheless, I wasn’t armed with this knowledge as I stepped into Cusco’s mountains. I wasn’t sure what I should have been feeling, but the initial lightheadedness I had went away.

traveling peru plaza abroad walking beautiful

First Day in the Mountains

While I was shoving leaves into my mouth like a damn koala bear, Sarah was negotiating taxi rates to the main square, Plaza de Armas. We were able to get a ride there for a little less than the normal rate (which was already extremely cheap). I realized right away how different Cusco was from Lima. First and foremost, I could see the sky and the sun, and because of this, it was a lot warmer. We were way above the overcast haze that sat on Lima.

Our taxi dropped us off in the plaza, where we made plans to meet up later. We then headed off to our respective hostels. Unfortunately, the walk to mine was entirely uphill. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. I exercise. I’m relatively fit. But when there’s barely any oxygen, none of that matters. You’ll still feel like a fish out of water. I huffed and puffed my way along, cursing myself for smoking that one cigarette the day before in Lima. All the while, 90-year-old Peruvian ladies were flying past me. And to make matters worse, massage parlor shills were trying to coerce me into their establishments. Don’t tempt me, lady! Whatever. Maybe I wasn’t in as great of shape as I thought. Anyway, I eventually arrived at the Dragonfly Hostel and took a fat nap.

traveling peru plaza de armasto castle abroad


A Unique Dinner with a Friend

peru guinea pig dinner abroad

After waking up and showering, I made my way back to the Plaza de Armas to meet up with Sarah for some dinner. It was night now, and the view of the lit-up houses on the surrounding hills was unbelievably awing. We walked around a bit, gauging our options, and agreed to settle on a restaurant called Los Portales. 

It was at this very restaurant that I decided to try something new: guinea pig. I knew I couldn’t leave Peru without giving it a shot, so when I saw it on the menu, I figured I would get it out of the way. Let me tell you, it’s actually not terrible. I don’t think I would ever order it again, but if I was forced to eat another one, I wouldn’t complain. It’s got a very gamey taste and has a bit of fat, but all in all I can see why it’s a delicacy. Sarah was completely disgusted with my choice. She told me so all throughout dinner!

Day 3 

I was up very early the next day because I was going on my first excursion of the trip: riding ATVs to Moray, Maras, and the salt flats in the Sacred Valley. For those with more time in Cusco, other day-long excursions include Rainbow Mountain and Humantay Lake. I booked this activity with Willka Travel – Day Tours through TripAdvisor. Since I had an extra ticket, Sarah agreed to come along as my passenger (my crazy ATV driving definitely scared the crap out of her though!). Our guide picked us up at the hostel, which was very convenient and drove us about an hour outside of Cusco to a small village.

traveling peru salt flats valley excursion mountains

The Excursion

Our first stop was Moray, an archaeological site that contained ancient Inca terraces. Shaped almost like an oval, these layered terraces kind of reminded me of the Roman Amphitheatre. Except, instead of serving as a major source of entertainment, these terraces were for farming and irrigation. Their exact uses are still unknown but, according to our guide, their shape and orientation utilized the wind and sun to create drastic temperature changes between the top and bottom layers.

traveling peru moray abroad archaeological

After a short break to look around, we took off again. We passed through gorgeous, picturesque scenery. Some farm animals here, an abandoned church there, and we finally found ourselves in the village of Maras. Here, we boarded a van and headed to the famous salt flats. The flats were nestled between two large mountains. And when I say nestled, I mean they were at the very, very bottom. I had no idea what I was looking for as we zig-zagged our way down. Eventually, I was blown away by the bright, white ground that contrasted with the greens and browns that made up the surrounding landscape.

An End to a Great Day

Back in Cusco, Sarah and I walked around a little bit covered in dirt from all our outdoorsiness. I bet we probably looked like Pig-Pen from Peanuts. We decided on grabbing an early dinner and enjoying some famous Peruvian lomo saltado. We also ordered the much coveted and surprisingly refreshing Inka Cola. This would be our last goodbye before we went our separate ways. She would be staying in Cusco a couple more nights to do more excursions, like Rainbow Mountain, before seeing more of Peru. I would be starting my four-day hike to Machu Picchu the next day! In my opinion, besides the sights and experiences, meeting people whom you’ll probably never see again is easily one of the greatest things about traveling. It teaches you to get out of your bubble and be who you truly are.

This part two of a four-part series. Click here for here for part three.


Ten Days Traveling in Peru Adventure

tyler black travelerAfter living in Spain for two years and covering some serious ground in Europe, I began to gaze my eyes south of the equator to see what new adventures I could get myself into. I had many options to choose from like Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina. However, with it being winter down there, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the beach life as much as I would have liked. I ultimately found Peru as the most practical choice. I knew it would be a rigorous trip and since I’m not getting any younger, I decided to pull the trigger on a round-trip ticket to Lima on Spirit Airlines for roughly $600. There were cheaper flights on Latam Airlines but their reviews online were abysmal, so I took the less risky option. This is part one of a four-part series.

Day 1 – Lima

I landed in Lima around midnight extremely groggy from my 14-hour journey and attempted to make my way towards the exit without a real clear idea of how I was going to get to my hostel. Thankfully, I didn’t need to think too much because there were about six or seven taxi companies intently flagging me down. I ended up paying 60 soles for a ride to Miraflores, which isn’t terrible. However, I would later find out that there is an airport shuttle that costs between 8 and 15 soles, so keep this in mind if you’re flying into Lima. And at the end of my trip, I would come to discover that Uber’s prices are almost half of the taxi rates. You live and learn, I suppose. I arrived at Hostel Puriwasi, checked in, and promptly went straight to sleep.

Peru lima food travel abroad tour downtown peru tour

A Tour Around Downtown Lima

Six hours later, I was up and ready to see what Lima had to offer. I signed myself up for a free walking tour of downtown Lima, which was run by my hostel. Just like that, my vacation was underway. We took the metro (which was actually an extended bus) and headed for the city center. Passing through various neighborhoods, we even went under the national soccer stadium. Our stop was Jirón de la Unión, one of Lima’s oldest and most bustling streets. The street used to be an aristocratic hotspot for many decades after its construction in the 16thcentury. The street’s age was evident by the European-style architecture that shadowed the walkways. Today, it’s a very popular destination for shopping as it’s littered with high-end department stores and upscale restaurants.

Peru lima food travel abroad tour downtown peru

Plaza San Martin and Plaza Mayor

We took a short walk to Plaza San Martin, a beautiful and relaxing square in the heart of historic Lima. Then, we shot back up Jirón de la Unión towards Plaza Mayor. Along the way, we passed La Iglesia de La Merced, a gorgeous, intricately-designed church built by the Spanish in the early 1500s. We detoured a little bit to see the Basilica of San Francisco(more on this later) before reaching the Governor’s Palace. Thankfully, we happened to enter the grounds at a great time. The Dragoons of the Presidential Guard were performing their ceremonial changing of the guard. We all watched in awe (tourists and Peruvians alike) as the guards, mounted on horseback, carried out the traditional performance across the palace’s front yard. The governor stood tall on the front steps, watching, as they marched to the tune of the military band.

Peru lima food travel abroad tour downtown peru mayor

Shortly after it ended, and one street churro later, our guide, Franco, took us through the back streets of historic Lima. He showed us old Spanish balconies, where women used to hang out together while men romantically serenaded them on the streets below (by singing or playing guitar). Franco tried to get some of us guys in the group to show off our flattering moves, but none of us were brave enough. As if any of us foreigners could come close to that Hispanic charm! We carried on, almost nearing the end of our tour.

Peru lima town food travel abroad tour downtown peru

Lima Upper Downtown

Heading to the north of downtown, we passed through a series of small streets. They weren’t particularly crowded but they definitely had their share of the local Limeños going about their day. There were also Andean families selling handmade jewelry, clothing, and locally grown cocoa leaves. I had been keeping my eye out for cocoa leaves the entire day. I didn’t know how I would react to Cusco’s altitude later on in my trip, so I picked up a large baggy of them along with some cocoa candies. Franco encouraged us to buy some other stuff from the Andean people. Every single day they travel close to a 100 miles down from the mountains to sell their goods in those very streets. I couldn’t imagine how hard of a life that must be. However, you would never know their struggle with their smiling faces and tranquil demeanor. It was definitely an interaction I’ll never forget.

A First-Day Feast

The tour ended in a vibrant neighborhood full of musicians and street vendors. There was a great view of the Andes Mountains in the distance and some of the favelas in the nearby hills. After a group selfie (which I can’t find anywhere!), we all went our separate ways. Two others and I decided that we had to sample some authentic Peruvian food, so we set out to find a decent establishment in the area. We came across a small restaurant with a rowdy crowd watching a World Cup soccer game. We snuck in, grabbed a table, and ordered some Pisco Sours along with our main dishes. Pisco is a traditional Peruvian spirit made from fermented grape juice. It’s kind of like wine, but with a much higher alcohol content. It tastes a lot better than it sounds, I promise.

On the MenuPeru lima food travel abroad tour downtown ceviche

Our food arrived at the table and I feasted on my wonderful ceviche, a spicy dish of raw seafood seasoned with citric juices, onions, chili peppers, and cilantro. My plate also came with roasted corn and potatoes. Interestingly, my body has a great way of showing how delicious a dish is, and that’s by how much my nose runs. And let me tell you what, that thing didn’t stop leaking. It was probably from all the spice but either way, I was in food heaven.

Now stuffed like Peruvian guinea pigs, we decided to go back to the Basilica of San Francisco. Why, you ask? Because it has ancient catacombs, of course. Not as big as the ones in Paris, but still a sight worth seeing (even with the existential crisis it brings). It’s estimated that there were around 70,000 people buried there, their bones scattered in geometrical shapes. The catacombs have even survived the multitude of earthquakes that have devastated Lima over its 500+ year history. The basilica itself was very impressive as well. The interior, with its stone walls and large paintings, reminded me of those I had visited in Spain. Probably because it was built by the Spanish. But still, it made me miss my second home.

Winding Down

The afternoon was winding down to an end. The tour had been a lot longer than expected. In a good way, of course. My new friends and I headed back to the hostel to refresh and hang out at the rooftop bar. With a newfound love for pisco sours, we ordered a round and chatted about our travels and life in general. Sarah, a French girl traveling indefinitely around South America, turned out to have the same flight as me to Cusco. So, we agreed to meet up the next day in order to split a taxi ride to the airport. After an enjoyable few hours, we all eventually called it a night. We all had early mornings the next day. Up next was Cusco.

Click here for here for part two.

by Tyler Black

An English Blur

An English Blur

If you haven’t read my second installment take a quick peek at Getting Lost in London to catch up!

The next morning, I woke up early to meet the group that was going to Oxford. Dounia hadn’t wanted to visit “some stuffy, old college,” and rolled her eyes about visiting Stonehenge, so I was going without her. I went to the hotel’s continental breakfast and was met with all the workings of a traditional English breakfast. I tried eggs benedict for the first time, as well as English breakfast beans (unusual, but I enjoyed it. Every chance I got, I would heap a mound of breakfast beans onto my plate). I went down to the lobby to wait, where I finally met Yennifer. Yennifer was the oldest member of the group and had grown up in Colombia. Dounia and I would become great friends with her.

Change of Plans

Nikos informed us that there was a last-minute change and we wouldn’t be visiting Stonehenge, much to my disappointment. Nonetheless, we were off. We met up with another tour group, and we all piled into a bus. Still unfamiliar with who my group was, I sat alone and looked out the window. When we got to Oxford, we took a quick walking tour, visiting all the important locations, and then we were released to explore on our own.

oxford-england-An English Blur

As soon as we were released, I bought a hoodie. It was freezing! It was the middle of summer, and it was like 60°F out! In Florida, it was probably 95°F. I didn’t think I’d be wearing a hoodie in the middle of May, that was for sure.


For lunch, I had a venison meat pie (delicious) at the market. It was completely surreal ordering it. There was definitely a delay while I took time to process the cashier’s accent – I think I had a venison pie, but who really knows what I agreed to in that quick exchange.

I took some time to sit in one of the important halls of the college, where I wrote a postcard to my grandmother, and then tried to visit the famous Oxford library. Unfortunately, the library is closed to visitors, so I made do with buying a copy of The Hobbit from the library’s gift shop. I popped into one of the oldest pubs for a quick peek, and then after ran into Yennifer and another girl from our group, Emily. They were going to visit the museum, so I thought I’d tag along.

Onto the Museum and Oxford Courtyard

The museum was incredible. There were old dinosaur bones that hung from the ceiling, and I had never been so transfixed as I had been, standing there, amidst such an incredible display of natural history. Yennifer, Emily, and I rushed through as much of the first floor as we could, as we had to meet the group once more. After meeting up with them (and after listening to an excited 19-year-old about popping into that old pub and buying a beer – “I didn’t even get carded!”), we were led to the famous Oxford courtyard that appeared in a number of Harry Potter films.


When we got back, Dounia and I went to have dinner somewhere Nikos had suggested, which was down a slightly scary street. We talked about turning around several times, but we eventually found it. I ordered my second drink ever, an apple martini, which Dounia recommended. What a difference! It was delicious! I could definitely see how those could be dangerous!

More Of London

The next day, we piled onto another bus and toured around London. We saw the Globe Theatre, Big Ben, London Bridge, and even got to watch the Changing of the Guards ceremony at the palace. Afterward, we again stuck close with Nikos and followed him around, along with a mid-sized portion of the group, into Chinatown. We saw all the usual quirks of Chinatown, along with the really cool entranceway.

After that, the group struck off from Nikos, and we visited several art museums. Dounia and I had dinner again, together, this time in a more popular part of town. A bunch of our group went bar hopping, but Dounia and I skipped it, as we had to wake up early again the next morning, and neither of us wanted to spend our souvenir money on booze.

I feel like I missed a lot in London, but this can be attributed to it being the first city, and we were still getting our feel for things. It was so big that it was overwhelming to pick what you wanted to visit. I feel like a lot of time was wasted just wandering around and trying to figure out how to navigate.

I remember feeling really frustrated at a lot of the people we were with, because nobody could make up their minds on what they wanted to see or how to get there, and I was trying to go with the flow. Later on, I decided that I would be the one navigating – I wasn’t going to waste my time trying to ‘collaborate’ (i.e. argue) on directions when I knew I was right. I probably rubbed more than a few people wrong, but in the end I was one of the go-to’s for directions, which ended a lot of frustrations on my end.


What I Learned

Ultimately, I wish I had gotten the chance to go back to London with my group. The anxieties of being in a new place with almost no one that I knew definitely got to me. This would eventually go away, but for the first few cities, I was really stressed out. This wasn’t only just the fact that I was in a new country either, but also because I was in such a large, historic city. I hadn’t come in with any plan at all on what I wanted to do or see and had no idea about what was around London that I could look at. I had brought a sightseeing book for Europe, but a lot of the sites in that were too far away.

My favorite place that I visited while in England was Oxford. I think I loved it not only because of the college but also because it was such a charming town. You could feel it waking up as the sun reached further and further overhead, there were people strolling up and down the street, and some locals tending to their garden flowers. The market was busy and alive. I saw an entire pig head! There were students and tourists rowing in the river down the way, and students walking around in their exam uniforms. I could have spent a few days in Oxford alone.

Final Thought About Where I Was

Visiting Oxford gave me a chance to take a deep breath and remind myself that everything was fine. Being alone in a weird place was nothing to get worked up over. I needed to be more open to new experiences and actually go with the flow. Not just say that I was! Taking the time to write the postcard gave me a moment to appreciate where I was. It was incredible that I was sitting in a hall that millions of students had traversed. I was standing smack dab in the middle of a room with wall to wall windows – a hall that was part of a university dedicated to educating students for centuries. It was big, beautiful, and breathtakingly rich.

When I emerged from that hall, I found a sense of calm. When Yennifer and Emily invited me to the museum, I was touched that they thought to include me. They reminded me to be friendly. Everyone who came onto this trip was just as alone as I was. Visiting the museum with them was one of the best parts of the first half of my month abroad.

In my next post, I’ll talk about arriving in Paris and our Parisian dinner! If you’d like, check out the video I made from clips I took while walking around!

by Cassidy Kearney