Although I spent most of my time in Taiwan in Taipei, I did take a few trips to some of the smaller towns south of that city. One of those towns was Wulai, a small town that I had seen featured on Bizarre Foods — but it wasn’t just food that brought me there. I’d heard that it was a beautiful town with a nature preserve, with an impressive waterfall. I tried to board one of the crowded buses out to Wulai but so many people were ehading there for the day that most of us couldn’t get on board. I ended up sharing a taxi with 5 complete strangers, splitting the fare 6 ways. It was a quick ride out of the city, and when I got out of the taxi I was greeted by the sight you see above. Wulai is an unbelievably beautiful place, almost unreal.
I have the travel bug. You know that bug. We all get it some times. It’s especially hard when the bug wants to go to places like Tokyo, Iceland, ooohhh the Easter Island, and Ushuaia. I know where my bug came from. I’ve been diligently catching up on old episodes of No Reservations and The Layover. Plus I just recently watched 180 Degrees South, a documentary about this guy’s journey to Patagonia. AND currently I have a friend eating delicious fresh sushi in Japan and our very own Howard is in Taipei exploring the night markets.
Many times Bourdain would say, on his show, to just go and travel. While I would love to do it, money has always been THE biggest factor. How am I going to pay for this trip to Patagonia? I guess I can save but then I got so much crap to deal with here at home (rent, bills, bills…BILLS).
Of course I can start off with places more nearby. Did you know one of the places on my to-go list is Mt Rushmore? Yep. I like that sort of stuff. Toronto and Montreal is also nearby enough to do a quick long weekend trip. Heck even places like Portland, VT would probably make a good trip. Hopefully this year I’ll make another trek out to Seattle and go abroad (somewhere close like London).
Where would you like to go this year?
In addition to tapas, Barcelona is known for “cutting edge” food and cooking. One of the city’s most forward-thinking restaurants is Comerç 24, and it’s one of the few restaurants that my two guidebooks actually agreed on. When my friends Jess & Garrett came back from Barcelona, they told me that the best meal they had their entire trip was at Comerç 24. The restaurant was only about a 10 minute walk from where I was staying, and I walked past it almost every day. I stopped in one of those times and asked if they could accommodate a vegetarian. The maitre’d asked me a few questions: Do I eat dairy? Yes. Do I eat seafood? No. Do I eat eggs? Yes. He assured me that they could put something together for me. I made a reservation for lunch the next day. I got the Festival tasting menu, a series of many, many courses. Together with the wine and the olive oil tasting that “every meal” at Comerç 24 begins with, the lunch cost me over $100, making it the second most expensive lunch of my life. However, where I felt the meal at Per Se was worth the price, I thought the meal at Comerç 24 was overpriced. Good, but not worth the cost.
One of Barcelona’s (justly) famous landmarks is La Boqueria, an enormous market just off of La Rambla. The market is overflowing with live seafood, exotic fruits, cured meats, fresh vegetables, and more. I actually visited La Boqueria twice, because my first was late in the afternoon when many of the stalls were closed. Less known to visitors is the Mercat Sant Antoni (pictured above), with a slightly smaller selection but no tourists (except, of course, for me).
Barcelona is a city known for great food. Unfortunately for vegetarians, the food it’s known for is mostly meat and seafood. Sure, a handful of tapas are vegetarian, but there are very few actual fresh vegetables on the menus of most restaurants. During my visit I made sure to seek out a few vegetarian-friendly restaurants, and had some really good meals. Above you see the “scallops” of seitan from Amaltea. Big chunks of seitan were breaded and cooked until crispy. I say “cooked” because I’m not sure how they were prepared — I would say fried but they weren’t greasy. I would say baked but they weren’t dry. These seitan scallops, however they were cooked, were delicious. Here they were served with a fresh avocado and tomato salad and a mound of what may have been the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. The fixed price lunch also included an appetizer, in my case a hearty, pureed carrot soup.
Oh twinkle twinkle little star….how I wanna eat your pizza-r! I can write lyrics! After a good few hours on the plane flying from Seattle to San Francisco, I was ready to just veg out. It was raining quite a bit when I landed and parts of SFO were leaking, eek! Even though I was pretty tired, I was glad that my friends were up for hanging out in SF a bit. Matt and Chris’s parents had moved to the Sonoma County so they had a good 40min drive into SFO to pick me up. Along with Phae, they decided to have dinner in the city.
I had mentioned Little Star to them before, so I guess the idea was stuck in their heads. I’m not quite familiar with the history of Little Star or why the love for deep dish pizzas in SF but you can check out their website and a review on Slice.
Flying into Seattle on Christmas Day was probably not a great idea because nothing was opened when I landed around 5pm. I had always wanted to visit Seattle again to sort of explore more than just the downtown area. Last time I was there it was 2006 and with a group of friends. We did most of the touristy things like going to the Space Needle and visiting the 1st Starbucks at Pike Place.
So Christmas Day in Seattle. It was rainy, gloomy and quiet. I stayed at the Ace Hotel, $99 per night but shared bathrooms with the rest of the guests plus complimentary breakfast and Stumptown coffee. Ace Hotel was a good few blocks away from Pike Place so I was away from any tourists crap but close enough. It was also surrounded by a bunch of great local bars and hang-outs.