travel

Two weeks in Asia. Stop 2: Kuala Lumpur

The second city on our trip was the hot and steamy Kuala Lumpur. Our 3 nights here have completely flown by and I am currently writing this from the plane on the way to Bangkok!

We landed at lunchtime on Monday and got the KL Espres train directly to KL Sentral (a speedy 30 minutes and free wifi on board) and then had planned to change to the green line to get to our hotel. Well, it turns out that the KL subway system has 2 different green lines and we got on the wrong one. Eventually, after a couple tantrums, waiting yonks for a monorail and walking a lot from station to station, we got to our hotel! And the moment we got to our room ready to drop our bags and head out to explore, a huge thunderstorm started. Of course it did.

An hour or so later when the thunderstorm had subsided a little, we headed out on a walk to see KLCC park and the Petronas Twin Towers. An advance warning for potential visitors to KL – a zebra crossing here may look exactly the same as one back at home, but in Kuala Lumpur the cars will not stop for you and you will probably die. Also, motorcyclists don’t care about red lights/pedestrian pavements/loss of life so have your wits about you at all times.

When we arrived at KLCC Park with all limbs amazingly intact, the Petronas Towers looked STUNNING. So many gorgeous photo ops in the park and lots of places to sit in the sun and take in the view.

The mall underneath the towers is enormous and has everything from supermarkets to designer stores to Marks and Spencer’s and it even houses a cheeky Nando’s. We ignored the peri-peri chicken and instead headed to the food court to see if we could try something a little more authentic. As with nearly everywhere in Asia, finding authentic food that’s also gluten free was difficult. I checked out all the stalls before deciding that my safest bet was a Rendang beef curry with plain rice. It was yummy! Ewan also tried a canned Chrysanthemum Tea which was interesting (read: rank).

The Towers (and actually the whole city) are even more stunning at night when they are lit up against the night sky, and the fountains in the park light up and play music after dark. We also walked home through a little rainbow forest which was dreamy.

The morning after we headed to Batu Caves via bus & train. I had read that you have to have your shoulders and knees covered to go in as it’s a place of worship, so I put on my most sexless and unflattering outfit (photo of this below – you’re welcome) and off we went. Sadly, my outfit was apparently not covered enough and I was made to pay to rent a sarong. Ewan, the slut, had his knees completely visible but was allowed in sans sarong. Go figure.

The first thing you’ll see at Batu Caves is the enormous gold statue at the bottom of the steps. The second thing you’ll see are stray dogs and monkeys. For monkey fans, you will probably be in your element. If you’re a person who is afraid of most things (like me), you will probably not be. However, I can honestly say that those 272 steps in 36 degree heat were EASY because I was running on nothing but fear and adrenaline. I had one break in which I forced Ewan to take my backpack in case it attracted the monkeys as they are known to steal things off tourists and can bite if they have to fight for it. Basically what I’m saying is I was quite happy for Ewan to be attacked as long as I saved myself. Picture below of a monkey with a stolen drink.

Once you’re up the steps, the caves themselves are actually pretty underwhelming. They are currently going through extensive rebuilding inside the caves though so maybe that’s why! On the way back down, I put my hand in a huge, bright green pile of monkey poo. Yay.

Once back in KL Centre, we got a taxi to the historic centre and took some gorgeous photos of the area. We found ourselves conveniently inside Central Market when a thunderstorm started so decided to shop for some of those hideous long trousers that EVERYONE wears when in Asia, in preparation for our temple visits in Thailand. You know the ones I mean; baggy and covered in elephants.

The very tactful owner of one store greeted me with, ‘Yoo-hoo Madame, the larger sizes are over here’. Because I was actually slyly trying to look for the stretchiest ones, I followed him and practised my super impressive bartering technique on him:

‘How much are these ones?’

‘For you… 35 RPM’

‘Great.’ *hands over money*

We headed to the crazy-busy, food-filled street Jalan Alor that evening for dinner and finally got to try Chilli Crab. It was good but an absolute pain in the ass to eat!

Our last day in KL was a bit of a washout. There was SO much rain all day long. We wanted to go up KL Tower but the Sky Deck was closed due to the weather, so we plumped for the observation deck instead and thankfully could still see most of the city from it!

It cleared up a tiny bit and we were able to get out for a wander around Little India, before finding the most delicious place inside Sentral Mall for lunch. I had the most incredible Nasi Lemak (a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf) and tried a naturally gluten free dessert called Lapis. They do them in all different colours and flavours!

That evening we headed to see the stunning Petronas Towers again and stopped for dinner in Malaysian chain restaurant Madame Quan’s. There weren’t a huge amount of gluten free options so I had my second Nasi Lemak of the day! I wanted to have an alcoholic drink with dinner but Asian restaurants seem to offer beer but not much else, which is obviously no good for me! However, we found a bar that sold wine by the glass later that evening and I now understand why wine isn’t so big in Asia… we had an absolutely terrible glass of Shiraz while watching the fountains and it was enough to put me off wine for at least a week!

We got a taxi back to the airport for our flight to Bangkok because we couldn’t stand the thought of getting on KL’s public transit system again, and ordered our taxi from the hotel front desk. As our taxi arrived, the receptionist shouted out to us, ‘by the way, your taxi driver is deaf.’ To start with we were a bit worried how safe this was in insane traffic, but he turned out to be THE CUTEST MAN IN THE WORLD/safest taxi driver in Asia and left us with a lovely memory of Kuala Lumpur.

Side note for gluten free peeps: KL airport has NOTHING that you can eat once you go through security so eat before if you can. I ended up having a bag of Starbucks sour cream and onion crisps for breakfast.

travel

Two weeks in Asia – Stop 1: Singapore

I bang about how much I love Singapore on such a frequent occasion that Ewan, my boyfriend, decided he wanted to visit for his 30th birthday trip. We also decided to tag Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok on to the holiday to make it extra special/to tick off as many countries visited as possible. (I have recently downloaded an app called Hello World and am a bit obsessed with it).

The week leading up to our flight to Singapore saw ‘the beast from the east’ hit the UK, cause havoc and subsequently SO many flights were cancelled. Honestly, until our flight actually lifted off the ground, I wasn’t sure if we were going to get to go!

Thankfully though, all worked out fine and the flight itself was a dream.. or as much of a dream as a 13 hour economy flight can be. Hot towels, freshly made Singapore Sling Cocktails, fantastic gluten free food and the hilarious movie Happy Death Day made the time fly by.

We landed at Singapore Changi airport at 7pm, took the super cheap MRT into town and after a scenic walk along Boat Quay, checked in to our hotel and went to bed.

The morning after, I felt fresh and ready to go out exploring. Ewan, however, had barely slept due to jet lag and was a grumpy bastard. Regardless, he still got up, dressed and we ventured out to find breakfast. Let me start by saying that finding gluten free breakfast in Singapore is an ABSOLUTE BALL-ACHE because Singaporeans either like to eat toast with random toppings (one place was selling toast with a butter and sugar mixture spread on top, advertised as ‘butter with a crunch’) or soy sauce covered noodle dishes. I ended up having a fried egg, a ‘fish ball’ and a super sweet iced coffee. Weird… but I actually kind of enjoyed it.

We headed to check out the Merlion and get some gorgeous views of Marina Bay Sands before walking around the harbour to explore Gardens by the Bay. These Gardens are like none other; lush greenery mixed with enormous sculptures of all different shapes and colours, huge futuristic ‘trees’ and a sky-walk that connects them all together. To top it all off, Cloud Gate in the Gardens is home to the worlds largest indoor waterfall. Gorge.

We took a break from the heat and stopped off at a cafe inside the gardens for a drink. I was seduced by a photo of a bright pink drink on the menu and ordered it without a second thought. This was a mistake. It turns out I had ordered a concoction of whole milk, sugar and rose flavoured syrup. Grim grim grim. Looks nice in the picture though, doesn’t it?

Next stop was Chinatown and we had fun walking around all the stalls, checking out the gorgeous lantern lined streets and year of the dog decorations. It was a roasting 34 degrees so we headed into Chinatown Complex Food Centre for some lunch and air conditioning. There are an insane number of stalls in there selling all manner of delicious looking things, but eventually I went for the Carrot Cake as I knew it was gluten free. Carrot cake isn’t what you think… it’s a dish made out of rice flour and white radish mixed with eggs and garlic. They sell it in black or white varieties, but if you’re gluten free make sure to get the white version as the black one has soy sauce in it! It was really yummy and weirdly tasted like a seafood omelette even though it’s just veggies!

We headed back to the hotel for a swim, sunbathe and nap. The hotel pool was beautiful and it was crazy hot which was a nice change from the freezing temps back home!

Post-nap, with rumbling tummies, we wandered out to take in some more stunning views of Marina Bay and grab some dinner at my favourite Hawker Market in Singapore – Gluttons Bay. We feasted on a huge platter of chicken, mutton and beef satay and washed it down with tiger beer (Ewan) and iced tea (me). We wanted to get a chilli crab too but we were stuffed, so we have vowed to come back next week when we’re in Singapore again.

We watched the light show (every night at 8 and 9pm) at the Marina Bay Sands before going to Clarke Quay for a drink. Ewan had a sampler of beers, all of which he sadly described as average, and I of course went for a Singapore Sling.

We’re now in Kuala Lumpur for 3 nights before heading to Bangkok, then back to Singapore! Plus, just to add this in because I am a smug cow, and also to excuse the state of my hair/outfit/general appearance in all the photos, I am doing this entire 12 day trip with nothing but a 7kg hand luggage bag. So smug.

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Day 60 & 61 of USA Road Trip – Seattle

We are now back in the U.K. after the best 2 month holiday of our lives, and it’s time for me to do my last blog post of the USA part of the trip! The final city we visited in America was Seattle, a place I’d always wanted to go to and it definitely lived up to my expectations.

The journey from Portland to Seattle was not without drama. Every time we’ve rented a car this year, we have had an emergency alert that the tire pressure is low. To be fair, I’m not surprised that this happened on this trip, as we had been escorting Big Red through some very bumpy country roads… but it still freaks me out when it happens! We had to drive to a few different gas stations until we found one with an air pump. This is probably not impressive to anyone apart from me but we managed to fill up the tires with zero help! Yay adulthood! We had lunch on the road in Quiznos because they do a yummy gluten free bun for only an extra $1! 

When we arrived at our hotel, we were greeted with a lovely load of dodgy weirdness. There was a blazing row going on in the lobby as we were waiting to check in, but that turned out to be the least of our worries. During the essential bed bug check of our first room, we found small blood stains all over the mattress. In the next room, we found an empty prescription drug cylinder, a fake Chanel purse and a mini weighing scale under the mattress. Nice.

Thankfully, downtown Seattle was a billion times nicer than our hotel. On our first afternoon in the city we visited Pikes Place, home of the first ever Starbucks! It’s also home to a bakery called Cinnamon Works that has tonnes of gluten free and vegan options. Ewan and I shared a cookie that had tofu in it and it was weird but not unenjoyable.

We purchased a CityPass for Seattle because it saves a lot of money if you plan to check out a few of the main tourist attractions while you’re there. Our first attraction on the CityPass was the Aquarium, and it was a really good one. We watched the Giant Octopus being fed which was very cool and I sat watching the beautiful sea otters for ages.

We stopped at nearby Anthony’s restaurant for dinner. It was Happy Hour so we got super cheap meals, the Poke Bowl for Ewan and Mussels for me. The fries are cooked in the same oil as gluten containing items so I subbed in mashed potatoes instead as my side. The happy hour portions were very small but tasty (we MAY have had ‘second dinner’ at McDonalds later that evening….).

Realising the time, we speed walked/trotted from dinner to the Space Needle and managed to make it up to the top just before the sun set and got a stunning 360 degree view of the city. A perfect way to end our first night in the city!

The following morning we headed into town and booked ourselves on the first boat cruise of the day. We had 2 hours to kill before the boat departed so we decided to have a wander around Pioneer Square. To my excitement, we came across a coffee shop called Biscuit Bitch that I had heard about through the gluten-free grapevine and I just had to go in for second breakfast. Biscuit Bitch essentially only really sells coffee and multiple variations of ‘biscuits and gravy’ (for UK readers who are currently imagining a custard cream in a bowl of gravy, the ‘biscuits’ are savoury dumplings!) but it is absolutely worth checking out if you’re nearby. I went for the ‘Straight Up Bitch’ and it was honestly the best comfort food ever. Note: Get there early – they only make 15 gluten free biscuits per day!

It was now almost time for our cruise so I rolled my gravy filled body out of Biscuit Bitch and got on the boat. We scored ourselves seats on the outside deck and basked in the sun while taking in some lovely views of the city. We were super lucky as rain was forecast but we didn’t get a drop!

Even after my 2 breakfasts, I was impressively (or grossly) still ready for lunch when we got off the boat. We had a quick salad bowl in Qdoba then headed to our final City Pass ticket locations; Chihuly Gardens and Glass and the Pop Culture Museum. Chihuly was beautiful and we were able to take loads of pretty pictures.

The Pop Culture Museum was really fun and had so much in it, including a games room where you could play unreleased Nintendo games. Ewan and I challenged two guys to a weird game where you were basically long sausage dogs with human heads chasing after a ball… and we won! Woo! The rest of the Museum is filled with authentic props from movies and unseen, original pictures of artists like David Bowie.

To get back into town we took the Monorail which was a cheap, quick and painless way of traveling and also an easy thing to tick off the Seattle bucket list! We stopped for dinner at our trusty favourite P F Chang’s before heading back to the hotel to sleep our final night in USA for this trip! Super sad but I can say now (over a month after returning) that we had the most incredible summer and it was an insanely amazing holiday that I feel very lucky to have experienced ❤

From Seattle, we headed over the Canadian border into Vancouver and spent a beautiful, chilled out 5 days there before flying back to UK. I’ll be doing a post soon of my top tips for eating/sightseeing in Vancouver!

Restaurants · travel

Day 59 of USA Road Trip – Portland 

If any of you have seen the TV show ‘Portlandia’, you’ll probably be aware that Portland is a weird (and wonderful) city. If you haven’t, imagine a place that is full to the brim of independent, original businesses and very quirky people. 


We didn’t arrive in Portland until late in the evening on our first day so decided not to head into town. Instead, we went for dinner at the Indian restaurant adjoining our hotel called Namaste. When I walked in and realized that it was a buffet, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat. It turns out that every item is clearly labeled with all its ingredients and gluten/dairy free options are marked. Everything was yummy and the price was ridiculously cheap, $14 for all you can eat! 

The following morning we got the shuttle into town for a full day of exploring in Portland. The first place we visited was the Chinese Garden in Old Town. The entrance fee is just shy of $10 per person and you get so much for your money. If you go at 10am on Thursdays, you get a free Tai Chi class taught in the main pavilion! We arrived just after they started so we didn’t join in but very much enjoyed watching them. The gardens themselves are stunning and quite big, with lots of cool areas to explore. Each building has a different attraction in it and all of them are free, from calligraphy lessons to fortune telling.


After such a relaxing time in the Chinese Gardens, it was time to get our morning caffeine fix. We went to the famous Voodoo Donuts and while I had high hopes that they might have gluten free options, I was sadly disappointed. However, it is a very cool place to see and their coffee is pretty good. For the non-gluten free visitors, they do some very… different… donut varieties, including one called ‘the cock and ball’. I’ll let you guys guess the shape of that one. 


We spent the next couple of hours wandering around downtown and checking out the shops before stopping for a quick lunch in Freshii. It was weird to be back in a Freshii as that was the place I went to for lunch at least a couple times a week when I worked in Toronto! For anyone who’s never been, they do quite a few gluten free options including my favourite, the Bamboo Bowl. It’s best to check out their nutrition menu online before you go though as I’ve never found the staff to be that knowledgeable about gluten. 


There’s a tourist information right across from Freshii so we popped in and asked this adorable old lady how we should spend the rest of our day. To say she was helpful is an understatement. She gave us a full breakdown of the best things to check out in the city and we had the best time thanks to her advice! 

The first spot on her list of suggestions was the Portlandia Building which has a statue of a woman on the front that’s comparable in size to the Statue of Liberty. It’s actually ridiculously easy to miss because she’s bent down to catch a salmon (naturally) so she looks a lot smaller than I expected. Still, very cool to see! 


We then walked all along the gorgeous waterfront back to Old Town and stopped for an alcoholic refreshment in a beer garden called Floyd’s. Another reason to love Portland – their alcohol is very cheap! 

Portland is home to the largest independent book store in the USA and this place is seriously MASSIVE. I’m talking a store the size of an entire block and 4 stories tall, completely chock full of books. If you’re a book fan like I am, you can get lost in Powell’s Books for hours! 


Right round the corner from Powell’s is the very cool Fat Head Brewery. Now, I am in no way a beer fan but this place really is amazing! They offer a few different gluten free beers along with lots of wines, ciders and cocktails. I tried a Mango cider which I’ll admit I didn’t love but the real winner was their food menu. They can basically make anything you want gluten free and during happy hour all their pizzas are only $8, with zero extra charge to make it gluten free! We couldn’t resist this insane offer so had a cheeky pizza to share with our drinks. Ewan had a beer flight (not gluten free) and of course tried their beer called ‘the Lou’. 


Our last stop of the day was Tilikum Bridge, the newest bridge in the city that only opened in 2015. There’s not as much around it as I had expected but it offers a nice vantage point to see the city. 


We weren’t massively hungry after our pizza but didn’t want to head back to the hotel before having some dinner (I don’t think anyone can face an all you can eat Indian buffet twice in a row) so we popped into Flying Elephant Deli for a bite to eat. Funny story about the Flying Elephant, when I saw the name of this place on the map earlier in the day, I made Ewan walk all the way there thinking it would be a statue of an elephant with wings. It was a bloody Cafe! Flying Elephant Deli does have lots of gluten free options but it really is a cross contamination nightmare. I wouldn’t touch any of the gluten free cakes or breads with a barge pole because they are stored on the same plates as their gluten containing counterparts, but I just about trusted the soups and thankfully didn’t have any issues after eating it. I went for the Tomato Orange and it was yum! 


Overall, I absolutely loved Portland and think it’s a really cool city to spend a day or two. My next blog post will be all about the beautiful city of Seattle! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 56-58 of USA Road Trip – North California and Oregon 

These three days felt like proper ‘road trip’ days. We drove basically all day, stopping off at different cool locations along the route and had a quick sleep at a random motel before getting on the road again. 

Our first day of driving was from Napa Valley to Eureka. We stopped for lunch at Jack in the Box and I wasn’t convinced that I’d be able to eat anything, but thanks to the nutrition menu on the wall I worked out that I was safe eating a grilled chicken salad. I’m the first to admit that I am not a huge salad fan, but this was actually pretty good! Would definitely have it again. 


Our first sightseeing stop of the day was the Drive Thru Tree. It’s only $5 per car to enter the park and on a quiet day like the one we went on, you can drive through it as many times as you like! If the name didn’t explain enough, it’s just a huge tree that has a small, car shaped gap cut into the bottom of it so you can walk or drive through. We are in a tiny Ford Fiesta and managed to hit our wing mirror (no damage, thank God) so good luck if you’re in a big car! 

 

We drove along Avenue of the Giants, a vast, tree-lined area with gorgeous views, attractions and hiking trails. We saw Chimney Tree (a tree with a hole all the way through) and went on a short hiking trail in Humboldt Redwood National Forest where Ewan bravely crossed a river by walking along a fallen tree. I took the wimps option and went across the manmade bridge.  


Our motel was in a town called Eureka which I stupidly expected to be buzzing because it looked geographically large on google maps. No offence to any Eureka residents (okay, maybe a little bit of offence because YOU MUST MOVE) but the entire town looks like one enormous and slightly dodgy car park. We had a quick dinner at a cute Mexican joint called Rita’s where they were able to make me gluten free vegetable fajitas and then headed back to the hotel room before it got dark out. 


The next day of driving was from Eureka to Coos Bay, Oregon. We made friends with some Germans at breakfast who told us a few good trails to do at Redwood National and State Park, our first location of the day. We did the Fern Canyon trail which was honestly incredible, I felt like I was walking around in Jurassic Park! The Canyon walls were covered all the way up in bright green ferns and small waterfalls drizzled into the water at the bottom of the Canyon, making the atmosphere so relaxing. I had to walk through streams and climb over trees to do the trail, which made me feel very accomplished as I am generally a huge wimp. 


Someone who was less happy about the streams was Sid, our trusty Ford Fiesta (named after Sid the Sloth in the Ice Age films because he goes very slowly when we drive uphill). We had to drive him through a rather deep stream to get to the trailhead and if you’ve ever tried to drive a rental car through deep water you will know how traumatizing this was. Thankfully, we all came out unscathed.

For lunch we went to Palm Cafe which is apparently ‘World Famous’ but I’ve learnt during the trip that this term is used loosely for just about anything. To be honest if you HAVE heard of Palm Cafe in Orick, California, I’ll give you a tenner. The service was really good though and they made me a very yummy ham and cheese omelette, so I’m not complaining. 

Back in Redwood National Park, we did a super short hike to ‘Big Tree’ which is crazy tall and 1500 years old! 


Our favourite sight of the day was Klamath River Outlook. It was such a beautiful viewpoint of the ocean and we sat in the sun watching the whales and sea lions swim around below. Dreamy. 


We had a slightly alternative accommodation booked for the evening at Oceanside RV Park. We were staying in an airstream! It had 2 single beds, a cute sofa, a tin shower and working loo. It was adorable and only a 1 minute walk from a private beach. We borrowed a board game from the front desk and had a really lovely evening in our trailer. 


When it was time for dinner, we drove a couple minutes into Charleston and ate at Millers on the Cove Sports Bar. They have great gluten free options including clam chowder which is hardly ever gluten free so I had to order it and it was really good! I also had the crab tacos and a glass of hot apple cider because it’s now officially autumn and I am a basic bitch. 


After a delightful sleep in our little tin house, we spent the day driving from Coos Bay to Portland. We decided on Pancake Mill in Coos Bay for breakfast. They do loads of gluten free options including pancakes of all sizes, waffles and muffins. I had a vegetable scramble with a side of gluten free dollar pancakes and took a raspberry muffin to go. They do three different kinds of maple syrup too and they are all delicious. One of my favourite breakfasts of the trip. 


Our first attraction of the day was meant to be Sealion Caves but when we got there they explained that there were actually no sea lions there that day as they were all out hunting. They offered us $2 off their usual admission price so we could see the empty cave…. no thanks…. and instead we drove on to Thors Well. Thors Well is essentially a collapsed sea cave that looks like a bottomless sinkhole at high tide. We saw it at mid/low tide, but it was still stunning. 


We drove on to Seal Rock for a walk along the beach (no seals, maybe they were hunting too?) then stopped at McDonalds for lunch. I love McDonalds soooo much but since I found out I have celiac disease, I’ve only been able to eat the fries. I’d heard that you can ask them to make a burger without the bun but have always felt too silly to make that request. However, because it was really quiet in there and the lady behind the counter seemed nice, I went ahead and asked. What a game changer! They server their burger in a lettuce wrap and they taste just like a normal burger! Mega happy. 


Our last stop of the day was the majestic Cannon Beach. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I could have wandered along the beach for hours upon hours. If you ever seen The Goonies, it’s the beach from that movie! We stayed until the sun started to set behind the huge rocks in the sea and then drove on to our hotel in Portland. 


We now have under a week until we land back in UK! Where have the last 2 months gone?! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 54 & 55 of USA Road Trip – Lake Tahoe & Napa Valley

Before leaving San Francisco, we checked what the weather would be like in Lake Tahoe so I knew what to wear for the day. What I saw surprised me to say the least; it was going to reach a high of 10 degrees! All I’ve been wearing for the past 2 months is denim shorts and strappy dresses, so I was in a bit of a panic. We dug deep into Big Red and pulled out a pair of Lululemon leggings that I’d placed there in a well intentioned but laughable attempt to lure me into working out during the trip. Needless to say, they hadn’t been touched since I packed them. I stole a fleecy jumper of Ewan’s to wear with them and was ready to go!  

We didn’t check in to our hotel in South Lake Tahoe until 2.30pm as it was quite a long drive. After dropping Big Red off in the room and brushing up on our knowledge of what to do if a bear attacks, we headed up to the Van Sickle trail. The hike was short but very steep, which thankfully meant that it didn’t take too long to get to a gorgeous look-out. We sat on the rocks and watched the bright blue lake below us for a while. It was beautiful! The chairlift runs all year for $50 per person if you don’t fancy hiking.


On the way back down, we stopped at Heavenly Village to nosy around the cute shops and restaurants. I can imagine that this area is stunning during winter and an amazing place to ski, but as soon as we walked down to the beach and had a little chill out on the sand, I realized that it would be just as gorgeous in summer. The water in the lake was crazy clear and calm. 


We had a very unexciting dinner in Applebees because the BBQ restaurant we’d planned to go to was closed for the season. I had the Bourbon Chicken & Shrimp and I don’t mean to sound like a greedy guts but the portion was so small and therefore depressing! 

The following day we headed to Napa Valley, which was wonderful, boozy and sunny. I’ve done quite a lot of wineries over the past 2 years while living in Canada and the thing that surprised me in Napa was how expensive tastings are. In Canada, I’ve generally only paid $5-10 for tastings at a winery, and that usually gets deducted if you buy a bottle. In Napa, you’re looking at around $30-50 per winery visit! We had made tour reservations at the stunning Domaine Carneros winery in Napa, about a 15 minute Lyft ride from downtown. The building is very pretty and they specialize in sparkling wine. We only got 4 small tastings during the $50 tour but it was very informative and interesting. Did you know that to get the yeast residue (gross) out of every bottle of prosecco/champagne, wineries have to turn each bottle upside down, freeze the neck of it and pull out the ice plug that forms? 


Downtown Napa has some smaller, cheaper wineries and tasting rooms, but they are obviously not set in beautiful vineyards like the out of town ones. We had a few wine flights at different locations in the city and my absolute favourite was JaM Winery. They have a Chardonnay called ‘Butter’ that genuinely smells like melted butter and I was very enamoured with! We also got to try the difference between their Napa region wines and their wines made in other areas of California and it’s safe to say that the Napa ones were SO much better. 


For dinner we went to Mint Mango Thai in Napa downtown. They are great with gluten free requirements and very knowledgeable. I had a yellow chicken curry and it was yummy. 


We stayed at Wine Valley Lodge in Napa which is famous because Marilyn Monroe and Elvis have both stayed there at some point. It was a cute place but all I can say is that they must have stayed there at the VERY beginning of their careers because it wasn’t exactly lavish….. it was perfect for us though and I slept like a log after all that wine! 


Final wine rating: Loved Napa but I think Niagara on the Lake in Ontario is still my favourite place to go wine tasting! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 51-53 of USA Road Trip – San Francisco

 San Francisco has always been on my to-go list and I am so happy that I can now say I’ve been! Ewan’s parents were travelling around California at the same time as us, so we aligned schedules and met them at the Cliff House on Wednesday for lunch. You are supposed to be able to get good views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the area, but the weather was seriously foggy so there was absolutely zero visibility. We were staying in Sausalito (at a gorgeous hotel thanks to Ewan’s parents) which meant that we had to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to get there. This is all we could see from it! 


Because of the foggy weather, we decided to stay over in Sausalito for the afternoon instead of driving back into San Francisco. The hotel offered complimentary bikes so we had fun cycling around the area. 


For dinner, we decided to check out the restaurant attached to the hotel, Frantoio. They offer gluten free pasta and I had the most incredible rabbit ragu dish, I haven’t had pasta as good as that since Frings in Toronto. 


The hotel had an outdoor fire pit so we spent the rest of the evening sitting and enjoying the warmth of the flames while making complimentary s’mores – or marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate for me! Yum. 


The next morning, we enjoyed our hotel hot breakfast (which is seriously a luxury for us now after all of our budget motels) and drove into the city. I hadn’t expected this to be the case, but San Fran is a very drivable place. The traffic was minimal and there are a multitude of free parking spaces all over the city. We were able to see Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, Fishermans Wharf and the beautiful sea lions at Pier 39 all while parking for free nearby! 


When our bellies started to rumble, we drove to the Ferry Terminal as Ewan had heard how pretty the area was. He was right, it was such a gem! There’s a big water feature in the square that you can walk through, and lots of nice little cafes and boutique shops inside the Ferry Terminal itself. 


While exploring all the stalls, I found a 100% gluten free artisan bakery called Mariposa that sold a little of everything. All their offerings looked insane: cherry danishes, bagels, cinnamon buns, avocado on toast… I could go on and on. Eventually I decided on a cheese and ham pocket and it was SO good. It did not have the dryness of normal gluten free pastry at all! 


Chinatown and Union Square are within easy walking distance from the Ferry Terminal, so we checked both of those areas out next. I’ve been to many Chinatowns and I think San Fran’s may be my favourite! Union Square was a cool, buzzing place for shopping and people watching. We took a streetcar from Union Square back to the Ferry Terminal before heading on to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. 


The Palace doesn’t look like much from the road, but this is an absolutely gorgeous place to visit if you’re in the San Francisco area. There are intricate, roman-esque structures and sculptures to see and it’s all free to visit. It’s especially beautiful on a sunny day! Inside the main building are a few exhibits and lots of games to play like table tennis and jenga. We played the bean bag toss like in San Diego and I won, again. I really should start a team when I’m back in the UK. Any takers? No? 


On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a vantage point for the Golden Gate Bridge and took lots of great pictures. Ewan’s Mum is a yogi and her yoga group take pictures of themselves doing poses when they go on vacation. I especially enjoyed watching Ewan squirm in embarrassment as his mother did a bridge pose (basically a crab to non-yogis like me) on the ledge with the view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Brilliant. 


Dinner was at my favourite place, The Cheesecake Factory. I went for my old faithful – chicken and roasted garlic gluten free pasta and a slice of Godiva chocolate cheesecake for pudding. It was as delicious as ever but I definitely overate and felt ill and full for the next two days. Note to self: must one day learn to eat in moderation. 

We spent our final day in San Francisco exploring Golden Gate Park, after a brief pit stop at Alamo Square to see the Painted (or really not that painted to be honest) Ladies. 


Golden Gate Park is another place that’s easy to drive to and free to park in, but most of the attractions inside the park come with a fee. For $9 each, we went inside the very pretty but tiny Japanese Tea Gardens for a cup of green tea. Inside the Tea Gardens is a very steep bridge that you just can’t climb over without taking a photo! We had planned to rent bikes in the park but the park isn’t actually very bike accessible, as a lot of the paths prohibit cycling. We walked around instead and moved the car if we needed to go a long distance – much easier! 


We headed back over Golden Gate Bridge for the rest of the afternoon and visited the beautiful Muir Woods. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been spoiled recently by stunning national parks, and while Muir Woods didn’t blow me away, it was still a lovely place to walk around and feel at one with nature. 


For any coeliacs visiting Muir Woods, we stopped at Dipsea Cafe on the way there for a bite and they had a few good gluten free options. I had a salad with a few modifications and it was very tasty. They also have lots of gluten free breakfast items. Also not too far away is Pacific Catch, our dinner venue for our last night with Ewan’s parents in California. They have a great menu for coeliacs and loads of options to suit multiple tastes. After our delicious Poke dinner near The Madonna Inn, I was hungry for more Hawaiian, so I went for a selection of Poke dishes served with seaweed salad and tortilla chips. It wasn’t served like I had expected but it was really flavourful and filling!   


I’d definitely love to come back to San Francisco and fit in all the things we didn’t do this trip, like Alcatraz! We had such a great few days though and I was very sad to leave Ewan’s parents on the last day. However it was weird to say ‘See you in a couple weeks’ to them as we left…. AS IF we have less than 2 weeks until we land back in London! Where the hell has the time gone?!