Eating Veg in Lima, Peru

For those of you who don’t know, I have been vegetarian for 7 years, bordering vegan for the last six months. I am vegetarian because of my convictions, pseudo-vegan because of my food sensitivities. Based on my travels in Central America, I was not expecting to have that difficult of a time finding food that had substance and was vegan. For the first 3 days in Lima, I was wrong.

During the first half of the trip, many of the restaurants we went to did not have vegetarian options. On the first day, we ate a little bodega and I ordered a vegetable tortilla; I did not realize until my food came that South American tortillas are like omelettes. When I travel, I am relatively flexible when it comes to eating, as I know how hard it is to accommodate all of my food restrictions. I ate my tortilla, but because I have an egg sensitivity, I was sick the rest of the day. The next meals consisted of salad and white rice or appetizers that were very heavy with fast-burning carbs, such as bread. I could not order meals that had cheese, as I am lactose intolerant, so I was very limited in most restaurants. I was starving for what felt like 3 days straight.

This changed about half-way through the trip. On Tuesday night, I was walking from the convention center in Miraflores, Lima (I was in Peru for a conference), and happened to walk past a vegetarian restaurant called El Jardín de Jazmín. I made note that I was going to go to that restaurant during Wednesday’s lunch break, even if I had to go by myself. On Wednesday, I announced to my friends that I was headed to this vegetarian restaurant and that they were welcome to join me if they’d like. They all did, and we ended up discovering a hidden gem.

The entire menu is vegetarian, with many of the options being vegan. For lunch, I tried mushroom ceviche and split a black bean burger with a friend. The menu also offers a wide variety of homemade lemonades, teas, and craft beers. The lunch menu is extensive, offering a large number of veggie burgers, tacos, appetizers, and salads. All of my non-veggie friends enjoyed their meals and commented that they would be willing to return to the restaurant later in the week. For the first time in 3 days, I felt full and my energy had returned.

My options seemed to improve at non-vegetarian restaurants throughout the week, where I ate vegetable fajitas, or other vegetable-based rice dishes. However, we did return to El Jardín one more night for dinner. This time, I ordered a garbanzo bean burger that was as delicious as the meal I had earlier in the week. I was so happy to have found a restaurant with unlimited menu options, as that is not common for vegetarians to find when they go out to eat.

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Garbanzo burger with herbed potatoes

Despite eating at El Jardín twice during my travels, it was not the only vegetarian restaurant that I found. In the Miraflores district, I found three other vegetarian/vegan restaurants. They are: BioLeben (located on Alcanflores), La Chakra (Located on Avenida Juan Pardo), and Bircher Benner (Located on Avenida Larco). I did not have time to try these restaurants, as I was limited by conference activities, but they all have good reviews on TripAdvisor. La Chakra and Bircher Benner are located near the Pariwana Hostel, a popular hostel in Miraflores. All of these restaurants are within a 15 minute walk from Parque Kennedy in the Miraflores district, so are convenient if you are staying in that area!

Not Quite There Yet

I like to think of myself as a bit of a traveler – I mean, I’ve been to Costa Rica 4 times, did a trip to Europe on my own, lived in The Bahamas, and am moving to Australia next month. I am by no means an expert, but planning my upcoming trip to Peru and Australia has demonstrated how much learning I still have left to do.

I follow most, if not all of the tips, you see on travel blogs. I research flights using incognito tabs and try different routes to find the best price. I research the best way to get around the country. I do research on my “must-see” sights and leave room for exploring. My biggest travel faux pas? I wait too long to buy airplane tickets.

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Good thing I didn’t have tickets for this plane! Instagram: @rachee73190

I could research and find the best price weeks out from the trip, but instead of purchasing the flights when I find the lowest price, I sit on it. I sit on it too long, and I always end up paying at least a couple hundred dollars more than I originally anticipated. For this trip to Peru next week, I waited too long. Waiting too long to buy plane tickets meant that I had to sacrifice a part of my trip that I had my heart set on – Macchu Picchu. Between the travel from Lima to Cusco, the train ride up to Machu Picchu, MP’s Entrance Fee, and a flight out of Cusco, it was going to add on at least another $400 to my trip. Also, because I am moving to Australia a week after I return, I have very little wiggle room between my conference and my move.

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I did better this time around, when searching for flights for Australia, but I think I paid a bit too much for a one-way plane ticket. Flying from Chicago, it ended up being around $800, which isn’t too bad, but I think if I had planned ahead and “pulled the trigger” when I found the best deals, I wouldn’t consistently be in this predicament.

I’m still learning and I think I still do a pretty great job of doing my research, but if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that I need to be confident in my research and do what’s best for my budget and I. Traveling on a budget is fun and exciting, but spending a bit more money on plane tickets means less money available to spend on experiences in the destination. Nevertheless, I’m pumped to fly out to Peru!

The Queen of England (And missing my chance to be a princess)

** This is a post from my old blog and has been copied over/edited **

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This post is all about the time I saw the Queen and the Royal Family 🙂 In June 2014, I attended the Trooping of the Colour, also known as the Queen’s Royal Birthday Celebrations. Although she was born in April, it is custom for reigning monarchs to celebrate their birthdays on the second Saturday in June!

I arrived early (about 3 hours or so before the festivities were meant to begin) and snagged myself a spot against the guardrails. I was positioned next to an English family and they taught me some English trivia, my favorite being that a man broke into Buckingham Palace TWICE.

 
The Queen is in! (That’s what that flag means)

The festivities are free to observe from the streets, but there are tickets available to sit in the grand stands if you apply by ballot. I did not know that before I planned my trip, but I still had a really great time and had a great view of the Royal Family.

 

Royal Family! Kate Middleton is in the white next to the middle pillar

 

The Queen is brought to the palace by a horse and carriage and she joins the rest of the family for a fly-over at 1 pm.

That little teeny lady in the blue is the queen (behind the horse butts)

 

 

William in red in front of the pillar, Kate next to him, Harry next to her, and the queen in the front middle!

Colors of the English Flag during the fly-over

Seeing the Queen and the Royal family was definitely a highlight of my trip. Prince Harry was driven right past me on his way into the castle before the parade began! Unfortunately, he didn’t fall in love with me, so he won’t take over my student loans and make me into a princess. I think it was because he saw me eating a smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of my purse, like the peasant I am.
Have you ever seen royalty? Have you been to the Trooping of the Colour?

La Tortuga Feliz

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Counting hatchlings before release

La Tortuga Feliz is a non-profit on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast that works in collaboration with Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST) in Pacuare. In Summer 2015, I spent one week there leading a camp of aspiring marine biologists (all from the USA, all in high school) and volunteering with LAST. It was one of the best experiences I have had in the three years I ran that program.

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Entrance to LAST’s Pacuare Project. (Photo: Latin American Sea Turtles Facebook)

La Tortuga Feliz is located almost adjacent to the LAST headquarters in Pacuare. LTF itself is a dorm-style facility with no warm water and no electricity (you are in the jungle in a developing nation!). It is run by Robert and the volunteers who are staying at LTF; Robert and the long-term volunteers do all of the cooking and guests are asked to help with cleaning up the dishes, kitchen, and keeping the dorms clean. Linens and pillows are provided and there is a spigot and washing powder available to do laundry. All the food is vegetarian and delicious – the servings are HUGE (thanks to 4 hours of night walks every night) and everything is delicious. Robert rotates meals, but a lot of the meals feature the same staples.

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Photo: La Tortuga Feliz

All volunteers (long-term or short term) are assigned to help out at LAST. While we were there, we helped with building the hatchery, relocating eggs, releasing hatchlings, supervising the hatchery, and participated in night walks. The shifts for hatchery duty and night walks are about 4 hours long and when it’s dark out, it is DARK!

The first two years that I participated as a leader of this marine biology camp, I did not see any leatherback sea turtles (called baulas in Spanish) and I was dying for some baby leatherbacks. I had mentioned this to the campers when we arrived and after we got orientated to LTF, we were sent down to LAST because they were going to release some baby leatherbacks! I was beside myself with excitement and even got to hold one!

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Baulitas! After two unsuccessful years, I got them! 

 

The rest of the week was split up between hatchery construction, hatchery duty, and night walks. It was rainy season while we were there and we quickly learned that rain coats are of no use against constant torrential downpour. While I never saw any turtles on my night walks, three of my campers did and we all got our fair share of tortuguitas (baby turtles). The experience with LAST and LTF was one to remember and I would go back there to volunteer on my own in the future.

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The new hatchery

If you are interested in volunteering at La Tortuga Feliz, head to their website and check out their volunteer placements. They’re a great place for backpackers looking to volunteer and get some sea turtle experience!

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Holding a baby hawksbill (carey in Spanish) before release