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What to do in Napoli, Italy| Where to stay|Where to eat | Ft. Guide to Mt Vesuvius

Today I bring you an intimate guide of what to do in Napoli, Italy, commonly known as Naples. I will be expressing all that I have learned from talking with the rugged but beautiful South Italians and why you too should cultivate a love affair with Napoli

There tends to be two typical reactions that tourists elicit when they inadvertently express their opinions to 1000 people: loved Napoli or hated NaplesYes, I have intentionally juxtaposed the Italian name for city to the English one. This is simply because if you immerse yourself with the people of Napoli and get to know what it is like to belong to a city so diverse, you cannot help but show the respect of using its Italian name. But, for those who seemingly dislike the dirty city, I assure you that they are merely constructing their cornerstone opinions on a structure of very surface-level and superficial values. You can probably tell by my terminology that I do love Napoli, but that said, the city has a steep learning curve that one must be prepared to endure. Let’s first begin our journey from Napoli station. For those who have flown in, I am sure you will need to apply similar lessons.

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Exiting Napoli Centrale Station

The great man Rick Steves from Rick Steves Europe, himself, says prepare yourself for a confronting walk from Napoli Centrale station to your desired accommodation. I can tell you that describing the walk as confronting is a complete and utter understatement. In fact, words cannot describe the shock I experienced coming from the pristine, cobbled streets of Rome. What you will see is beyond chaotic, somewhat smelly and little English is widely spoken. There are busses pulling out in front of motor bikes, motor bikes almost running down pedestrians and fresh dog poop that has not been picked up by the obliging citizen. It is also important to note that per capita, there is significantly low amounts of green spaces such as parks and congregations of trees. This was probably the factor that I personally was not used to. But rest assured- from all that I have learnt about this chaotic city, I can tell you where you should stay and perhaps, where to avoid.

Stay near Spaccanapoli

 

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The divide stretches on and on

 

To immerse yourself in the most beautiful part of Napoli, I recommend you stay near Spaccanapoli or the historic centre. Spaccanapoli is the informal names given to the long, straight street running down the middle of Napoli’s historic centre. You can find a beautiful walking trail here. You can sign up for free with the linked AllTrails site, or you can pay to go pro and save numerous walking trail guides from around the world, allowing you to travel independently but yet still with a great source of information.

Be warned, budget hotels are hard to come by in the historic centre and tend to be a bit more ‘upper-market’ in style. This brings me to my next point…

Budget Travellers: Use AirBnB

It seems to be a trend that hotel and guest house owners, as well as AirBnB hosts, can speak English quite well and usually will be the best English-speakers you will come across in Napoli. Now, we didn’t stay in near the Spaccanapoli area. We stayed in an area North of Napoli Centrale station, which was only a 10 minute walk away from the historic centre and the glorious markets along the Spaccanapoli. I recommend this area budget travellers and for those who do not mind perhaps a more ‘working class’ area. We stayed in a cosy apartment and we met the nicest Italian in the world, the best AirBnB host and made a lifelong friend with Salvatore, whom I will be writing a special post about next. His apartment is almost always less than $70 AUD a night and in winter, is as low as $20 AUD a night (absolutely insane). The kitchens are fully stocked and you really feel like you have a home away from home in Napoli. We got to cut our own bread, eat punnets of olives and artichokes to our hearts content!

 

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Image credit: AirBnB, Nunzia and Salvatore

What to do in Napoli

Visit the Archaeological Museum

If you are planning to visit Pompeii, your trip will not be complete without seeing the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. Many of the smaller artefacts found in the Pompeii archaeological site permanently live in the Archaeological Museum and often tell very important stories. I believe that if you are  someone who is not so familiar with the historical disaster in Pompeii but you are seeing the site because you know it has, at least, some worldly significance, a visit to the museum will definitely enlighten you.

The museum also has an amazing Farnese marble sculpture collection and Egyptian Artefacts.

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Centuries old mosaics

 

Indulge in Contemporary Art at Museo Madre

Just a stones throw a way from the Archaeological Museum lives one of my favourite contemporary art museums around the world. Smaller in comparison to the famous MOMA and MONA but the collection Madre has is that of great quality. Adorned throughout the museum are blurbs about the artists featured, documenting their inspiring creative lives. There is also free entry on Mondays, which you will find very useful as your dollars will most likely be spent on quite a few museums in Napoli.

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Napoli Underground- Napoli Sotterranea

I kick myself still that I was too jetlagged to get myself here. This is perhaps one of the best things to do in the city to truly get to know the history of Napoli city. On your tour, you will explore a 2400 year old Greek-Roman aqueduct that has provided the city with water for 23 centuries. It is incredible how much technology was developed so long ago that still provides blueprints for supplying cities with water all around the world.

 

What to do around Napoli

Napoli makes a very convenient home-base for anyone trying to get to Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius. Word of advice- you do not want to actually stay in Pompeii. You will get ripped off and the locals highly disapprove of the food scene here.  Napoli, on the other hand, is also a very good place to stay if you would like to hire a driver so you get to see the Amalfi Coast- but more about that in my next post.

Getting to Pompeii Archaeological Park

You are going to need to navigate to the Napoli Piazza Garibaldi metro station. For a point of reference, it is located beneath Napoli Centrale Station and there will be signs that will lead you down to the Metro lines. Get a train in the direction to Salerno- you won’t miss the Pompeii stop. It should take about 45 minutes. The Pompeii Archaeological Park is only  short, guided walk away from Pompeii station.

 

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Just another neighbourhood

 

Getting to the top of Mt Vesuvius

Okay first I must warn you- if you are independent traveller not on an organised tour to Mt Vesuvius, getting there is unclear and slightly difficult. When you input directions to the carpark to the Vesuvius National Park (at 1000m) from Naples, google maps with either have a heart attack or take you on a really funky route. Below I have 3  routes for you- two we tried, one we failed at traversing. But we warned, if you try googling some these routes, you will not gain much clarity.

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Route 1: Train + Local Bus

So as previously mentioned, you need to navigate to the Napoli Piazza Garibaldi metro station and catch the train in the direction of Salerno. You need to get off at Portici Ercolano Station and navigate your way to the number ‘5’ bus. Supposedly it is a short walk but we couldn’t seem to find the bus stop in time and we missed it. It was going to be a 40 minute wait for the next one. If you successfully use this route then well done to you! You figured out the shortest route to Vesuvio. 

Route 2: Train to Pompeii and EavBus 

So, from Napoli Piazza Garibaldi metro station, get off at the Pompeii stop that will get you to the Pompeii Archaeological Park. Walk to the park (you don’t need to enter it) and find the Piazza Anfiteatro exit. From here, you will find the EavBus. This is a private bus company which is why the route is not listed on Google Maps. You can buy tickets on the bus for a few euros. We used this route getting back to Naples and the bus driver let everyone off at Pompeii station. It is definitely easier to use this route on the way back. You will see large coach busses that say ‘Pompeii’. Getting to Vesuvio National Park from Pompeii seems to be the hard part. But rest assured, I have a well-tested route for getting there. For some very vague information, I found an unhelpful website here, but hey, it may work for you!

Route 3: Train + Taxi

So just like route 1, you need to navigate to the Napoli Piazza Garibaldi metro station and catch the train in the direction of Salerno. You need to get off at Portici Ercolano Station. There are always taxi drivers outside of this station usually waiting to over-charge independent tourists who miss the bus to get to Vesuvio National Park. Be sure to say “top/up” of Mt Vesuvius, not “bottom/down”. It will probably take you all day, if not longer to walk from the bottom of the mountain to the top and there are no foot paths. Once you are done your walk around the National Park and you so happen to miss a bus back down into civilisation, there are always taxi’s waiting for untimely tourists like you (I mean, like me).

 

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One of my best photos to date

 

 

Hire a driver and tour the Amalfi Coast

If you have cash to splash, a 300 euro a day driver is probably no bother to you. But, if you stay tuned for my next post budget travellers, I have a friend who only charges 150 euros and he will also bring you dinner to your apartment. Yes, Napoli style pizza and dessert. But more on that later… here is a teaser photos of this beautiful coast.

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Where to Eat!

Finally you say, what Little Dove Travels is best at… Eating food. Well, I have for you three must-stop places.

Pizza Vesi

Multiple Locations 

English menus, warm and friendly staff and pizza that would be upwards of $20 in Australia is only 3 euros here. Controversial to say but this was our favourite pizza in Napoli. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try too many pizzas so we probably have no idea what we are talking about but I still highly recommend this joint.

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L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele

Via Cesare Sersale 1/3, 80139, Naples, Italy

Yes, if you walked the streets of Napoli and listened to every pizza guide ever, then this recommendation is very typical. This has to be one of the most famous pizzeria’s in Napoli and for a very good reason. Cheap, no frills and squished in with locals, you will find only two pizza’s on the menu- the Marinara and Margherita. But this does not affect the lines that this place sometimes gets. Boring you say? Well, if you are a pizza connoisseur and enjoys pizza best the way it was originally invented and enjoyed, you will thoroughly enjoy drinking beer and sawing away at your tasty Sunday pie.

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Un Sorriso Intergrale Amico Bio

Vico S. Pietro a Maiella, 6, 80138 Napoli NA, Italy

I kick myself that I have lost the photos I took at this restaurant. But, your trip in Napoli- herbivore or not, will not be complete without stopping for this restaurants farm-to-table culinary creations. Look for the open black gate while you try to find your way down the small alley that Google Maps insists you walk along. Through the open gate, you will find the secret fully vegetarian restaurant (with plenty of vegan options) and prepare for some amazing food. Some of the dishes are combinations I have never even heard of but I still dream about eating the food here. Arrive hungry and order LOTS!

But that’s not all…

We have an exclusive post which will be titled “A Day with Salvatore” coming soon that will stem from this post. But, we hope to be back in Napoli so we continually update this all-inclusive guide.

Happy travels!

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Our First Europe Trip: The Route Overview and Sneaky Tips Part 2

Planning a Europe Trip? Unsure whether you should buy a Eurail pass or use EasyJet as much as you can? Well, you have come to the right place. I am a self-admitted travel-rookie who is just trying to learn about travel, take cool photos and then write about it. I have learnt A LOT by making a tonne of mistakes. But hey, I get to share what I learnt with you so I can make your trip easier! Bonus for you. Before continuing on, please read Part 1 of our trip overview so this post makes sense to you. This is the second piece in my mini-series (series I guess, why do I keep calling it “mini”?) of travel tips and tricks in Europe. Without further ado, continuing on from our last stop in Vienna, now we are off to Munich, Germany.

From Vienna, Austria to Munich, Germany

4 hour train trip with DB (main railway company in Germany), spent a total of 3 days

 

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Everyday Munich

 

Germany really does have everything sorted out in terms of their public transport system. We didn’t experience a single delay and arrived in Munich safely. I would highly recommend this particular train route.

Travel “disclaimer”

So, we were really looking forward to Munich as you hear so many great things about South Germany and the wonderful wonderland of Bavaria. However, I must warn you: if you are coming from Vienna, Munich can be quite anti-climactic. Why? Well, Vienna was lucky enough not to suffer any noticeable damage in World War 2 but Munich, unfortunately did. This is not to say we didn’t enjoy Munich. In fact, it was our favourite city in Germany. The way they have rebuilt is a testament to their strength to overcome their past. After some exploring, we did discover a more picturesque, really German feeling side to Munich, of which I will talk about bellow.

 

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The beautiful canal that runs through Englischer Garten

 

Accommodation Tip:

If you want to find quaint German buildings, beautiful canals and parklands, stay near the Englischer Garten. If you are visiting Munich in winter, walk through the park until you find the Chinese Beer Garden. Here you will find the most adorable and perhaps the best Christmas markets in Munich. This seems to be a market only the locals know about as it isn’t as accessible as other markets so narky tourists seem to stay away. Trust me, you will be able to bear the cold for the beautiful walk.

 

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Christmas Markets found in the Englischer Garten

 

From Munich to Prague, Czech Republic

5 hour Bus trip with DB, 3 days spent

 

 

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Prague through the bushes

 

 

We had the absolute pleasure of spending Christmas in Prague. We rented the most amazing AirBnB and cooked up our own little feast. We ventured out to the Christmas Markets on Christmas day and of course, spent hours walking around the beautiful city.

 

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On a cloudy winter day, the city is still beautiful.

 

Travel Tip: Use Czech Currency and always carry cash

While Euros are sometimes accepted, usually retailers mark up the price when you pay in Euros. Why? Because they know the conversion to Czech currency is confusing and they tend to take advantage of tourists because of this. Also, the Czech Republic is a very cash-based society and ticket machines for transport tend to  require exact change. We got caught out a few times for not having enough coins for our tickets.

Travel Tip: Use the trams

In Prague, when you purchase a public transport ticket, it will allow you to use all metro trains, trams and busses within the city. Coming from Melbourne where we have the second slowest tram system in the world, I wanted to avoid the trams like the plague. However, there were no metro stations near where our apartment was located so we had to use the dreaded tram. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised and we used trams throughout our entire stay. They are fast, rarely get stuck in traffic and easy to navigate.

From Prague back to Berlin, Germany

5 hour bus trip with Student Agency, 6 days spent

This is the part of the post that I have been dreading to write all week. Why? Well, I will be honest- I have very few pleasant things to say about Berlin. But, I take solace in my European friends that too affirm how I feel about my experience in Berlin and mu opinion is not unjust. For any Berliners reading this, I apologise. Please know, I come from a different walk of life and Berlin is just not my cup of tea. Since I will not likely be writing a piece, down the track, about Berlin, I have incorporated a few highlights below.

 

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The sun shining on a Berlin Wall sculpture memorial

 

Berlin Highlights:

If you are vegetarian or vegan, you will have an absolute ball in Berlin. In particular, there is a very culturally strong population of Vietnamese expats living in Berlin and vegan Vietnamese food appears to be trending. Need a food-guide? Check it out here!

 

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Find out more in my Berlin Food Guide!

 

If you are a bit of a nerd (like me), you absolutely must visit the Berlin Natural History Museum. My home country, Australia, is not a big fan of natural history museums and tends to amalgamate mini-displays into their state museums and it really doesn’t give natural history in Australia any justice. Hence, I adore going to places where I can find a natural history of science museum. Rest assured, there are English signs, guides and displays everywhere. It is a lot of fun on a cloudy, rainy Berlin day!

 

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I love museums. Sorry not sorry. 

 

Travel Tip: Do not go to Berlin on New Years

We were too scared to leave our apartment over New Years and so we spent our the night watching Spirited Away and eating chocolate. Why? Because fireworks that would typically be illegal in many countries are legal in Germany. People throw fireworks out of buildings, out of cars and it is not fun. Having a firework go off, without any warning, a few centimetres away from you is bloody frightening.

Berlin to Frankfurt: A Must Read!

An absolute mess of a journey…

First things first- I would like to raise a few points. These points are what I learnt from the many mistakes I made in planning the leg of this journey.

  • There are two airports in Berlin. Berlin Tegal Airport and Berlin Schoenefeld Airport.
  • Use FlixBus bus lines when in Germany or DB busses, not City Bus Express.
  • If you need to get from Berlin to Frankfurt, just fly. Don’t bother with bus or train- trust me.

Addressing the first point- we flew from Berlin-Tegal airport to Dusseldorf because for some strange reason (well, my own error actually), I could not find any cheap direct flights to Frankfurt from Berlin. The few flights I did find were with Lufthansa, and being a university student, I was not willing to fork out a few hundred for this flight. In hind sight, I really should have just paid for that flight due to what unravels next. But rest assured, I have an even better solution to this problem later on.

From Dusseldorf, we were to get a bus with City Bus Express. However, the unfriendly bus terminal staff had not heard or ever seen any of these busses. And, it simply just did not show up in the bus terminal. So, we paid a bit extra to get on the next FlixBus bus and after a horrid day, we eventually got to Frankfurt.

The solution? EasyJet! They now have flights from Berlin-Tegal Airport and the ticket prices usually range from $60-90 AUD. This is the most cost-effective means and the most efficient way. Busses and trains are much too expensive and time consuming to outweigh flying to Frankfurt from Berlin. Save yourself the heartache, trust me.

Frankfurt back to Melbourne, Australia- Home

23 hour flight journey with Qatar.

Frankfurt is one of the cheapest places to fly out of back to Australia. But, that is if your journey makes sense and has a clear, cost-effective route. From the blunders we made, we have learnt to be much more flexible with our travels and have many tips and tricks to try next time we go to Europe. This is something I will be talking about down the track.

Please stay tuned for more to come with my series of posts about Our First Europe Trip. I am here to both inspire your travels, and make them easier!

 

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Melbourne, I love you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our First Europe Trip: The Route Overview and Sneaky Tips Part 1

First ever time travelling to Europe? Are you a travel rookie? Rest assured, you have come to the right place. I am a travel rookie too and I have made many mistakes, particularly in Europe. In attempt to kick myself into gear again and stop making excuses that I am too busy with university and my job, I am bringing you a mini-series: Our First Europe Trip. Today, we are starting off with a route overview- briefly touching  where we went, a few travel tips and a brief opinion of a few places. Later on in this series, I will be giving you all sorts of travel tips about your first time in Europe and I will be sharing you intimate details of every mistake we (I really) made. Stay tuned for plenty more to come!

Melbourne to Rome

Qatar airways, 26 hour trip. Time in Rome: 48 hours

 

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A view of Rome from Palatine Hill

 

One of the cheapest places to land in Europe (at least in Italy) from Australia appears to be Rome. We got a fairly good price on a multi-stop ticket with Qatar airways. NOTE: if you are not departing from Europe back home from another airport than you arrived in, than there is something wrong with your itinerary. There are many travel airlines that will give you this freedom without charging an arm and a leg. I will give you more advice about this soon. Even the great man, Rick Steves, says this himself.

Travel Tip: Get the airport train to Rome city

I cannot stress this enough- just keep walking past those scammer taxi drivers. When you exit customs, follow the signs to the trains and do not talk to anyone. They will say to you a taxi is cheaper than the train. Let me tell you, no, it isn’t. We jumped on a ‘first class’ train for 14 euros each to get into Rome main station. Second class will be even cheaper, we were just impatient. Do not forget to validate your ticket either! Don’t let the QR codes and dates on your ticket fool you as the ticketing system is very… strange in Italy.

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Image source: Loco2

The Verdict:

48 hours is not enough. Not when you are jet-lagged. Also, do yourself a favour: get a nice hotel with a 24 hour desk. Why? Stay tuned! Anyhow, we need to return to Rome. Our time there did not do it justice.

Rome to Naples

Time in Naples: 4-5 days. Train trip with Trenitalia regionale train

 

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Napoli- some say its an eyesore. The locals think their home is beautiful. I grew to love it!

 

Travel Tip: Get the IC Train

Splurge a little bit extra and get the InterCity or the IC  train from Rome to Naples. Do not get the Regional or the Regionale no matter how much (well it really isn’t that much) cheaper it is. Penny pinching can fail you massively and this is a key thing I learnt. Why? The regional train I was on broke down and we were stranded for 4 hours while all the locals around us argued with train staff. The staff would not tell anyone what was happening and frankly, I don’t think they are paid enough to care. According to our AirBnB host, this happens regularly. But, if you get the IC, you are well looked after and you get to travel express. You really do get what you pay for.

The Verdict: Naples

4-5 days in Naples suited us because we needed a chance to chill out and get over jet-lag. Obviously, this is not the most glamourous place to do this. Be prepared for the shock of your life when you exit Napoli Centrale station- Naples is dirty. But, it has a steep learning curve. Give it time, talk to the locals and eat some of the world’s best traditional pizza and you will develop a love for Naples. For well rested travellers, you will only need 3 days in Naples, inclusive of a trip to Pompeii, maybe 4 days if you want to see Mt Vesuvius and hike for the day. Of course, this is all depending on if Naples is your home base. Final verdict? Do not skip Naples. Find your reason to love it- it is perhaps the heart of Italy, particularly the heart of rough and tumble Italy.

 

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Naples is a great base to get yourself to Mt Vesuvius so you can see views like this!

 

Naples to Cinque Terre

Time spent: 2 weeks, studying with Monash University. Train trip on an IC train to La Spezia, regionale train to Riomaggiore

 

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A view from the heights of Monterosso

 

So you are probably wondering why we landed in Rome, headed south and then travelled 7 hours back north. We just really wanted Naples Pizza and didn’t want to go after I finished my study in the Cinque Terre. Want to know why I was there? You can read it here!

Travel tip: Travel in March

The Cinque Terre is an interesting place. It is suffocated by mass tourism in the summer but very little is open in the winter. March is usually when the retailers and restaurant owners return from their holidays and re-open and is the month before the massive tour groups start to hit. You can even try April, October and November. December to February there really is not much going on but May-September, prepare to get trampled on.

Cinque Terre to Genova*

Time spent: 2 days. Train trip with Trenitalia 

*This is where everything went wrong…

Well, after an anxiety filled research presentation, my last day in the Cinque Terre could not have possibly gotten any worse. There were ‘code red’ weather alerts and a massive storm resulted in all trains to Milan being cancelled. We waited 4 hours just to get any train possible and we ended in up in Genova. I would like to mention that for those 4 hours, we drank beer and laughed everything off as much as we could. Why? My partner and I are so highly strung that when things go wrong that bad, usually we would most likely have a break down. This will happen if you travel in Europe and you have to embrace it.

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The Verdict: Genova

My, oh my. Genova is so underrated. Eventually we got ourselves to Milan as our train to Switzerland was from there. Honestly speaking, I would take Genova over Milan any day. And I am not sorry for saying that. Genova has so much heritage and was one of Italy’s pioneer industrial cities. The vibe, the architecture and the people there are just lovely. It is also the birth place of pesto, so why else wouldn’t you go there?

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Milan to Bellinzona, Switzerland

Time spent in Bellinzona: 2 days. Train trip with Swiss Federal Railways

Thankfully, from Genova we could get a train directly to Milan where we got our train to Switzerland. A brief point about Milan: Milan is flashy, and that is it. Moving on, our train trip to Bellinzona was absolutely stunning and Switzerland’s train system was a breath of fresh air after being in Italy for close to a month.

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Travel Itinerary Tip

If you know me personally, you know that I love trying obscure craft beers, drinking wine and spending evenings in cosy bars. There is a bar called literally called Folk Bar, full of folk décor and it is the cutest dive bar in the world. I really mean that; I have never been to a bar like it. Though Switzerland’s beer is pricy (and Switzerland is pricy in general), if you hit up Folk Bar at apertivo time, after 5-6pm, you will get a glorious amount of free bar snacks with your drinks. Oh, and plenty of snack refills.

The Verdict: Bellinzona

Bellinzona was absolutely breath taking. If you love mountains, snow and cute folk bars please get yourself here. Swiss-Italy is extremely refreshing after you have spent a bit of time in busy Italian cities. I also highly recommend staying at the ‘budget’ style hotel, Osteria Leon D’or. The breakfast is great, the staff will bend over backwards for you and it is right across from Bellinzona station.

Bellinzona to Zurich

Time spent in Zurich: 2 days. Train Trip with Swiss Federal Railways

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Travel Tip: Be prepared to spend

We knew right off the bat that Switzerland was an expensive place to be. But, nothing could prepare us for how expensive it truly was. Because we had to budget for the rest of the trip, we couldn’t do all that much in Zurich except for walk around, occasionally have a small treat. For two university students, it was a waste of time and money for us to go to Zurich. Don’t get me wrong, I love the city. But for us it was impossible to enjoy Zurich on the cheap. But I got a few cool photos… that’s all that really matters right?

Zurich to Vienna, Austria

Time spent in Vienna: 3 days, flight with Austrian Airlines

Traveling to Vienna from Zurich was one of those instances where it was genuinely cheaper to fly with not just a budget airline, but a premium carrier, than the train. Let me just say this: Austrian Airlines were absolutely fantastic. Great flight, lovely staff and everything inside the plane is red and white and its just so cute. Also, Zurich and Vienna’s airports are also very easy to navigate and get to and from- all you need to do is jump on the airport train.

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Sneaky Accommodation Tip:

Stay at Pension Neuer Markt. There are numerous pensions in Austria. Basically, they are a form of budget hotel but the staff look after you as if you are family. Also, the breakfast was magical and the whole place was so vintage and chic. I would stay here again when we return to Vienna.

The Verdict:

Spoiler alert! Well, I won’t say too much more than this: Vienna was one of the absolute highlights of the trip and has to be one of my favourite cities in Europe. Stay tuned for why it was our favourite but for now, enjoy some of my Vienna photography. And now before this blog post gets too long, this will be the end of part 1 of our route overview. Stay tuned for part 2!

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A Day in Kyneton |What to do|Where to Eat and Drink

Your trip to Melbourne/Victoria would not be complete without a trip to visit a country town such as Kyneton. It is one of my personal, all-time favourite country-towns, and it is so easy to get to from Melbourne! The one transportation network that is actually quite decent here in Victoria is the V/Line Regional Train system, and Kyneton is one of those beautiful country-towns where you don’t need a car to drive around. You will be getting the Bendigo bound or Swan Hill bound V/Line train, and it will take you a bit over an hour from Southern Cross Station. If you can’t see these on the departure boards, ask the train staff, as sometimes the regional trains will terminate randomly at a stop before Bendigo or Swan Hill. Never fear, Kyneton isn’t too far along, so your train will most likely get you there even if it does terminate earlier than usual on the line. I will be guiding you through Kyneton as if you too have arrived by train on a Saturday, which is hands-down the best day to visit due to the Farmers Market that runs every second Saturday. It is just a 10-15 minute walk down the main drag from the station to the town centre (click here for directions). So without further ado, let me show you around.

Things to see and do:

Kyneton Botanic Gardens and Kyneton Community Park

Mollison St, Kyneton VIC 3444

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You cannot possibly miss these beautiful gardens. You will actually walk past them when you walk down the main drag into town from the station. You can start your day in this lush little bit of paradise, or you can end your day here as you walk back to get the train home. Allow yourself plenty of time before the train if you choose the latter option, as you will lose track of time while wandering around. I saved it for the end of the day and made sure to get plenty of photos.

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The gardens date back to 1858 and they were a ‘gift to the people of Kyenton’. If you enter via the corner of Mollison Street and Clowes Street (click above for the google-maps shortcut), you will see a plaque that says exactly this. The plant specimens you will see are just magnificent, with 17 protected by the National Trust of Australia.

Behind the Botanic Gardens, you will find the Kyneton Community Park. It features a rustic playground, table tennis tables, and it is the modern-garden landscaper’s dream – with tropical trees and exotic grasses patterned around the park. You do not need to be a kid to enjoy this community park!

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Explore Piper Street

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If you started your day at the Kyneton Botanic Gardens, we are now going to keep heading down the main drag into town. It is a gorgeous walk, so take your time. If you have walked past the Kyneton War Memorial, then you are heading in the right direction to reach our next stop (or stops) – Piper Street. We will be turning left off the main drag down the historic centre of Piper Street.

Really, you do not need me to guide you along here, but I will show you my favourite shops and galleries to stop in. We will also be having lunch and a glass of wine along the way, so take your time.

The Stockroom

98 Piper St, Kyneton VIC 3444

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Back gallery space

Whenever I am in Kyneton, I always make a stop at this unique, contemporary art gallery. They always have new artists on rotation, so you’re going to be in for a wonderful treat here. When you enter, you will see all sorts of wonderful decor, clothing, hand-made crafts, sculptures, and quaintly artistic everyday items. You could spend almost all day in this part alone, but there is a walkway located at the back of the shop where you will find even more exquisite artwork.

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There are two major gallery spaces indoors. If you head down the rightmost walkway to the gallery space, you will eventually be lead to a shed-like area where you will find a permanent weather-art feature. After you have gazed into the installation for a solid five minutes, as I tend to do, pondering life and how the artist made this, you can keep heading out into the ‘Sculpture Yard’. This is an antique, scrap metal, recycled paradise.

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Colours of White

38 Piper St, Kyneton VIC 3444

This art gallery/shop makes my heart sing. When you walk in, be prepared for all the colours of the rainbow to smack you in the face. Don’t be fooled by how small this shop looks from the outside, as there is a back room that is full of paintings, handmade crafts, and amazing eco-ware. I think I know where I am going to buy my first ever kitchenware when that day eventually comes!

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Gallery and Home Décor Shop (Name Unknown)

Piper Street

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I regret not buying this glass bird sculpture

I stopped in this amazing shop as it had a sale on and boy, was it worth it! I restrained myself from buying anything, but I almost wished that it was my partner’s mother’s birthday again just so I could buy her some of the amazing coloured glassware and sculptures. I couldn’t seem to find the name of the shop, as it was very busy inside and I told myself, ‘oh I will find it on Google Maps, no problem…’ Yeah, no. Google Maps in Kyneton has not been updated since 2010 (which is why I am providing you with the shortcuts). Anyhow, it is on the same side of Piper Street as the rest of my pit stops in this blog. There are so many galleries, vintage wares, and décor shops, so you can choose a handful (or all of them) and just explore. Some of you may think – why would I explore a gift and décor shop? Well, the owners of these shops are genuine artists and they stock the work of other local artists from the region. If you buy something from one of these shops rather than a touristy souvenir shop in the city, you are stimulating the local economy of a small country town, and I am all about that ethical travel. So, buy your gifts here in Kyneton. Your friends and family will not be disappointed!

Quick Growth Garden Centre and The Garden Tap

36 Piper St, Kyneton VIC 3444 and 96 Piper St, Kyneton VIC 3444

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The Garden Tap

If you are feeling inspired after the exotic plants you saw at the Kyneton Botanic Gardens, or you are wanting to put yourself in the mood for some nature before you head there on your way back to the station, make a pit stop at both of these beautiful nurseries. Whenever I walk into nurseries, I just want to buy everything and landscape my own garden. The sad thing is I don’t have my own garden, but, alas, one day, one day!

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Quick Growth Garden Centre

If you aren’t an interstate or an international traveller, go ahead, buy a cute plant – if you have the means of getting it home (or the willpower… and a garden to plant it in).

Where to Eat and Drink

Pizza Verde

62 Piper St, Kyneton VIC 3444

Every time I go to Kyneton, I stop at this pizza restaurant. I know, I really should expand my horizons, as Kyneton is known for its great food, but when a pizza snob like me has what she describes as the perfect pizza, she just has to keep going back. Cut me some slack, I got to eat Naples-style Pizza in Naples for a week- I have been broken for pizza.

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A delicious vegan and gluten-free pizza

The tasty pizzas served here are New York Style. Usually, I could not care less when I see a pizza shop in Australia say ‘New York Style Pizza,’ as I am happy with a beautifully chewy woodfire pizza and have never quite seen the appeal. But, this has to be the best New York Style Pizza restaurant Victoria has to offer. They use fresh, local produce and have some extremely unique creations. They are also very accommodating for vegetarians and vegans. Usually, when I ask for the cheese to be taken off at a pizza place, I get scoffed at. But here, they are more than happy to substitute out things and make your experience at Pizza Verde a great one. We always get the Fungi Pizza, which has onion jam – yes, onion jam – instead of passata or olive oil, and my oh my, it is so flavourful! If you live the gluten-free life, like I try to do, (#stomachproblems and #skinproblems), they have the best gluten-free pizza base I have ever had. It holds together very well and has substantial bite to it.

Pizza Verde also has a small-plate menu, with delicious country classics like corn on the cob. I have had this before and it was divine. Vegans, just politely ask for the parmesan and butter taken off, and ask for a drizzle of olive oil instead.

 

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The vegetarian-friendly Margherita pizza

 

The Royal George

24 Piper St, Kyneton VIC 3444

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Your day in Kyneton will not be complete without stopping at the Royal George. Craft beer, local wine and a rustic, antique style interior that will make your heart happy – except for the deer head on the wall… I am going to live in my little fantasy world where I hope that this deer died of natural causes and was taxidermied afterwards as a symbol of its beautiful legacy. Anyhow, they have a wall of badges from the rotating taps of beer. Collections like this just make you so happy, don’t they? If you are feeling peckish, they also have a very tasty looking bar menu.

The Final Verdict, Honourable Mentions, and General Travel Tips

Well, I had an amazing day in Kyneton. I got to take photos, look at art, eat amazing pizza, and drink local wine. I really hope your time in Kyneton is as special as mine was and I hope it is a place that finds a special place in your heart. To wrap up this post, I will be finishing with a few final travel tips and honourable mentions.

 

Honourable Mentions

Blackhill Reserve

110 Blackhill School Rd, Kyneton VIC 3444

So, you are going to need a car to get here, which is why we didn’t make it on this occasion. Blackhill Reserve is lovely if you want to start your day with a bushwalk that isn’t too long but that gives you the country-town nature kick that we all love and enjoy.

Dhaba at the Mill

4/18 Piper St, Kyneton VIC 3444

I have always wanted to go to this modern-style Indian restaurant, but I always choose the New York style pizza at Pizza Verde instead. However, I have heard amazing things about this place and they are very vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

Travel Tips (Things to Know Before You Go)

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  • If you want a top-notch visit to Kyneton, go on a Saturday. This is the day that the entire town comes alive, and every second Saturday the local market is on too.
  • Plan what train you will be getting both to and from Kyneton. V/Line trains only run every 1-2 hours, so if you just miss one, it will be quite a wait.
  • Start your day a little earlier and finish it a little earlier if possible. Try and get the train home after 2 pm or just after 3 pm. All of the country-towners living in Bendigo and the stops in between tend to get the trains after 4 pm on the weekend into the city for a night out, and consequently, it can get quite busy.
  • Travel off-peak or on the weekend – you will get a reduced fare when you use your Myki (Melbourne’s public transport ‘ticket’ system).
  • Always ‘touch-off’ or ‘tap-off’ your MyKi when you hop off a V/line train. If you don’t, you could incur a $30 penalty on your Myki next time you go to use it.

 

Berlin Vegan Food Guide

Today, I bring you the long-awaited Berlin Vegan Food Guide! Hooray! But let’s be honest, being vegan in Berlin is easy. Happycow will be your best friend here, as Berlin seems to be one of those cities for which Happycow is super helpful. Vegans and vegetarians, you know what I mean. My list of recommended places for this guide, however, all have a common theme – and that is Vietnamese style and Asian-fusion vegan food. I’ve also chucked in one Indian spot for you. Berlin is a wonderfully international city and has opened its arms to many expats from all around the world. This food guide will focus on Vietnamese food primarily, as Vietnamese expats seem to be absolutely thriving in Berlin while cooking up some amazing vegan food. Furthermore, Vietnamese people are just some of the loveliest people I have ever met. This food guide is a tribute to my best friend, who is Vietnamese herself (and Sri-Lankan, and Indian, and a billion other things I am sure). I have her to thank for my love of Vietnamese food.

Cat Tuong

South Vietnamese, Kastanienallee 89, 10435 Berlin, Germany

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The amazing Mi Quang
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The most amazing fried dumplings

Cat Tuong deserves an award for being the best vegan Vietnamese restaurant. Wait, scratch that, it should win an award for being the best Vietnamese restaurant ever. Cat Tuong is just the perfect example of a restaurant that not only re-vamps traditional cuisine for vegans to enjoy, but has mastered the art and craft of true South-Vietnamese style cooking. My heart pangs when I think about this restaurant. Why? Because I live in Australia – halfway around the world – and it means if I want to go here again, I have to get on a plane and travel 24 hours (if I am lucky). We went here twice during our time in Berlin, and I got the Mi Quang both times. You simply MUST get the Mi Quang, trust me on this one. Or just trust me all the time – I know my food, I promise! We also had the best vegan fried dumplings, and Vietnamese coffee with a dash of vegan condensed milk. To top it off, the staff are incredibly hospitable and the aesthetic to the place is a nice fusion of traditional Vietnamese art, but with a modern twist. It’s just so cool!

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An amazing stir fry with rice noodles
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Banana sticky rice dessert

+84 Vegan Vietnamese Kitchen

Vietnamese with a Thai twist, Habersaathstr. 52 (rechts), 10115 Berlin, Germany

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The clay pot special

This restaurant is divided into two – one side vegan, the other omnivore (aka ‘traditional’ Vietnamese). We arrived right as it opened because we had not had breakfast that morning, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were more people sitting in the vegan half of the restaurant. This place really knows how to use their herbs and spices to make every dish taste fresh, wholesome and super delicious. You would never know that you are, apparently, ‘missing out’ on meat. I would describe this place’s cuisine as a mix of Vietnamese and Thai – as it features many Vietnamese classics, but also has a range of curries (such as the mock ‘duck’ curry) that you would generally see on a Thai menu. I had the Eggplant Clay-pot dish, which was a special, and it was absolutely delicious. The staff were lovely, spoke great English and have English menus if you cannot read German. If you want a vegan dish that satisfies your fussy omnivore friends, hit up +84!

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Red mock duck curry

Monsieur Vuong

Vietnamese and Asian Fusion, Alte Schönhauser Str. 46, 10119 Berlin, Germany

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Vegetable and glass noodle soup

Monsieur Vuong is a bustling, vibrant, family-run restaurant that has a rotating menu (it changes every four days). They pride themselves on their creativity and they use fresh, seasonal produce to churn out modern tributes to Vietnamese street food classics. The staff reassured me that they always have a vegan option, which was just music to my ears. I had the vegetable and glass noodle soup, based on a South-Vietnamese classic that I can’t seem to find/remember a reliable translation for. What I can tell you, however, is look out for the word “chay“, as this translates to “vegetarian”. Vegans do not fear, as these dishes will almost always be vegan as well. Vietnamese people hardly ever use dairy, except for condensed milk in their Vietnamese Iced Coffees. Anyhow, the food here was delicious. I advise, however, to book ahead, as we only just squeezed in for lunch.

Quy Nguyen Vegan Living

South Vietnamese, Oranienburger Str. 7, 10178 Berlin, Germany

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Aren’t those mushrooms just beautiful?

First up, the second you walk into this Restaurant, you are going to instantly feel warm and happy with all the chic, wooden decor everywhere. Soon enough, you will be greeted by warm and friendly staff again, which is a trend you will encounter if you hit up the places in this food guide. We ordered the Pho Chay, and the vegetable broth was quite good, which seems to be hard for a lot of Vietnamese places to master in Melbourne, (where I live). We also ordered a stir-fry with mock-chicken, which was the highlight for me. I forgot to get a snap of it, but we also ordered a Chinese bao (a soft fluffy bun with vegetables inside instead of traditional pork), and that was also very good.

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The Pho Chay

Hasina Eatery

Indian, Ofener Str. 2, 13349 Berlin, Germany

If you are looking for a healthier take on Indian food, with fully vegan alternatives, look no further than Hasina Eatery. If you are a vegan who lives a low-oil or an oil-free lifestyle, Hasina Eatery uses oil as sparingly as they can – they cook most of their dishes in water. Be warned, because of this you don’t get that indulgent, fat-filled hit on your taste buds, but everything is still super tasty, and your stomach will thank you later for not eating an oil-laden vegan korma. You can also bring your omnivore friends here if they are bugging you for butter chicken. You can kill two birds with one stone!

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Peanut Caramel Slice|Vegan|Healthy|GF|RSF|

Dates, sea-salt, and vanilla make the perfect “caramel” to be used in a vegan caramel slice. The best part is, you could fool absolutely anyone with this no-bake recipe. All natural ingredients? Full of amazing healthy fats? No refined sugar? Yes, please!

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The chunky peanuts just make this slice so good.

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All the beautiful, natural ingredients you need.

Ingredients:

The crust:

  • 1 cup of desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup of blanched almond meal *
  • 115-125g of melted coconut oil **
  • 1/2 cup of coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of sea-salt

Peanut-caramel filling

  • 12-15 Medjool dates (softened for 10 minutes in hot water if you live in a cool climate)
  • Generous dash of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp of cracked sea-salt
  • 2 tsp of coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp of maple syrup (optional***)
  • 1/3 cup of unsalted roasted peanuts

Chocolate layer

  • 200g of 85% dark chocolate (RSF option featured below)
  • 1/3 cup of roughly chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
  • A pinch of sea-salt
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Organic dark chocolate by Pico, sweetened with Coconut Nectar.

Instructions:

The crust:

  • Line a 20 cm X 30 cm baking pan with baking paper.
  • Place all of the ingredients for the crust into a mixing bowl and mix together. Ensure that the coconut oil is thoroughly mixed through.
  • Take a small amount of the crust mixture and press it between your finger and thumb. If it holds, your mixture should be ready to press down into the pan. If not, add one tablespoon at a time of coconut oil into the mixture until it has reached the desired consistency.
  • Transfer the mixture to the baking pan and press down firmly with a spatula or a flat kitchen utensil to ensure that it is level across the pan. Keep pressing until there are as few loose crumbs as possible.
  • Place in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for 30 minutes.
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This is how your mixture should look.
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Ooh, it’s so neat.

The peanut-caramel layer

  • Place dates, coconut oil, maple syrup*** and the sea salt into a food processor or blender. If your food processor/blender has a pulse setting, pulse on low to chop up the dates. Alternatively, you can chop the dates regularly before processing. Scrape down the sides and process/blend on low-medium until smooth. If your food processor/blender is having trouble blending the date mixture, add a dash or 2-3 tablespoons of boiling water, and keep scraping down the sides.
  • Once your date mixture is smooth, transfer to a bowl and fold in the roasted peanuts. Give the mixture a quick taste test to see if it needs another pinch of salt (depending on how salty you like your caramel).
  • Next, we will spread the mixture over the crust. Refer to the photo below. To prevent the peanuts from damaging the crust, dollop the date/peanut mixture in each corner of the crust, as well as the centre. Stretch the mixture delicately across the crust with the back of a clean tablespoon. Once complete, place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, or alternatively, the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Omit this step if you aren’t fussed about a neat chocolate layer.
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Spread your dolloped mixture with the back of a clean spoon or baking spatula.
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There was a gap in my peanut mixture, hence some out of place nuts.

The chocolate layer

  • Melt the chocolate in a glass casserole dish placed inside of a slightly bigger saucepan that is filled 1/3 of the way with boiling water. If you have a double boiler, unlike me, feel free to melt your chocolate using the double-boiler method. Place it on the stove on a low heat and constantly stir until the chocolate is just melted.
  • If you used the glass casserole dish and saucepan method, carefully remove the casserole dish from the pan and allow the casserole dish to cool slightly.
  • Evenly pour over the top of the date-peanut layer. Spread with a baking spatula or the back of a clean spoon. Sprinkle over the roughly chopped peanuts and lightly dust with cracked sea salt.
  • Place in the freezer for another 15 minutes, or alternatively, the fridge for 30 minutes. If you are not pressed for time, place the slice in the fridge to set over-night, or for at least 2-3 hours.
  • Once set, slice with a sharp, clean knife and enjoy.
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Your chocolate layer, with chopped peanuts and a pinch of salt.

Recipe footnotes:

*If you don’t have blanched almond meal, go ahead and use crushed almonds with the skin on, or another nut meal of choice. You can even blend your own almonds from scratch until the crumbs resemble the size of the desiccated coconut!

** If your mixture is a little dry, add one tablespoon at a time of coconut oil until the desired consistency is achieved.

*** If your mixture is too thick for your food processor or blender, and you would like to stretch out your mixture a bit more, add 2-4 tablespoons of maple syrup.

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Slice and enjoy!

As always, here’s to happy travels and happy stomachs.

Lots of love,

Cora B.

Easy Chunky Choc-chip Paleo Banana Bread | Nut-Free Option |Dairy-free|

This Chunky Paleo Banana Bread will not disappoint! It is gluten-free, refined sugar-free and super high protein! This can be made entirely nut free, just sub out the walnuts that feature in this recipe for some good, nut-free toasted granola/muesli clusters. When it comes to delicious sweet treats, I am all about texture. Hence, bare with me with the semi-long recipe list as I did some experimenting with some chunky bits in my recipe but it turned out wonderful! Please pay attention to the recipe footnotes, as this way you will avoid the mistakes I made. This recipe was inspired by Detoxinista.

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Ingredients:

  • 4-5 overripe bananas (4 if the bananas are medium, 5 if they are itty-bitty)
  • 3/4 of a cup of coconut flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of coconut sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup* (optional but I highly recommend)
  • A dash or two of almond milk **
  • 1/3 cup of dairy-free, paleo choc-chips ***
  • 1/3 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/3 a cup of chopped walnuts OR NFO: 1/2 of nut-free granola/muesli or extra chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg or allspice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

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Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/ 350ºF and line a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf (22-23 cm by 12-13 cm) pan with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Once mashed, add the walnuts or granola, cranberries, choc-chips, eggs, coconut sugar, cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg, salt, and vanilla. Use a whisk or a fork to stir the mixture well.
  3. Slowly whisk in the coconut flour and baking soda to avoid lumps. **If your mixture is looking grainy (which it probably will), add a dash or two of your milk of choice.
  4. Pour the batter into the lined loaf pan and bake until the centre of the loaf has risen and started to crack. about 45 to 55 minutes****.  Poke with a baking spear or fork and check if it comes out clean. If your bread is a bit on the brown side, do not fear, it will be super moist inside still. Cool completely before slicing and serving.
  5. This loaf is very moist and very dense. Trust me, it does not do well in hot and humid weather so save yourself the heartache and store it in the fridge in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap.
  6. Enjoy!

Footnotes:

*Honey or maple syrup will add another dimension of flavour to the banana bread and it helps with the consistency of the batter. If you are going for an even lower sugar option, feel free to omit.

** If your mixture looks grainy, as mentioned, add a few dashes of your milk of choice. Coconut flour is extremely absorbent, so do not fear if your batter appears a bit liquidy.

***If you aren’t too concerned about how paleo-friendly your choc chips are, look out for dark chocolate chips as they tend to be dairy free!

****If you have a super awesome oven like my partner’s mother does (she is the absolute best, she lets me take over her kitchen), then in the last 20 minutes, turn down your oven to 160ºC/320ºF.

Lots of love,

Cora B.