It's officially summer travel season in the US, so I'm kicking it off with my first Vegan Travel post of 2016 to inspire the wanderlust within you! It's been a while since my last post on New York City in August, 2015 - but I've traveled to San Francisco over the holidays and Los Angeles recently for Veg Fest LA. I will try to post about those cities since they are vegan paradises ;)
Two weekends ago I attended the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Leadership Conference at PETA's headquarter in Norfolk (pronounced nor-fik), Virginia and made it a long weekend trip since it was my birthday weekend. My husband and I flew into Ronald Reagan airport (DCA) in Arlington, VA and then drove three hours to Norfolk because the flight was half the price of flying directly into Norfolk. TIP: If you're flying into a small airport, you might be able to find cheaper and more available flights in nearby larger airports.
After landing, we rented a car and drove about 10 minutes to Busboys and Poets for a really late dinner. It was a warm and cozy coffee shop/restaurant and they had several vegan options including desserts!
TIP: We found this place on the Happy Cow app, download it to find vegan/veg friendly places to eat worldwide.
We shared a vegan nacho and I got a deliciously filling cob salad with fried battered tofu and tempeh bacon. Sorry for the dark/grainy iPhone photos - my camera was still in my suitcase and I was too tired and hungry to dig it out :|
We dined with these great men ;)
The next morning I went to PETA's headquarter, The Sam Simon Center, named in honor of the late Sam Simon - animal activist/advocate and best known for co-creating The Simpsons.
The elevator ride was a simulation of a much crueler reality for caged hens living in shoe-box sized "battery" cages. It was the saddest elevator ride ever and I was almost in tears! Please learn about the treatments of hens and chicks in the egg industry and pledge to go egg-free. There are many healthier and cruelty-free options like Vegan Egg by Follow Your Heart and other egg substitutes.
I made a stop at the PETA shop and got this super cute Tofu Saves Lives tank to match my "Love Graffiti" crossbody bag, and some delicous vegan chocolates for the road. All proceeds goes to support PETA's life-saving work for all animals worldwide.
It was bitter sweet to leave PETA's HQ, I'd learned so much during my short time there. But we had lunch plans with a friend who recently moved to Norfolk but is from Dallas originally. She found Chow Restaurant & Bar, which has vegan options and Gardein chickn. There is a handful of vegan/veg friendly places in Norfolk. The top two recommended were: Yorgo's Bageldashery for bagels/breakfast/brunch and Kotobuki for vegan Japanese options.
Of course I had to try the vegan BBQ chickn, made from Gardein chick'n strips, with fried pickles and white beans and squash. It was very good and filling! We chatted for a while but then our waitress told us that they were closing temporarily due to a gas leak, yikes!! Time to hit the road and drive thirty minutes East to Virginia Beach, the most populated city in Virginia.
Hello Virginia Beach! The weather was sunny, mid 60s, but a bit windy when we arrived mid afternoon. We lucked out since it had been raining a few days before. Once we checked into our hotel we headed to the nice and wide boardwalk (the #1 thing to do in VB according to Trip Advisor). Love that there are separate lanes for bikes!
We walked down to Neptune's Park which has this incredible sculpture of Neptune. Coincidently, I was wearing our "Ocho" octopus tee, illustrated by Berkeley artist Michelle White!
The park was rockin with a free classic rock festival on the beach!
Nearby, these folks were having fun doing a cartwheel race. As you can see, the beach is very clean.
I dipped my toes in the Atlantic ocean water but it was too cold for me to swim. We just walked the along the beach barefooted and soaked in the beautiful blue water and sky.
We'd worked up an appetite after a long walk on the beach, so we headed to La Bella Italia Italian Restaurant for a semi-fancy dinner (don't let the strip mall exterior fool you). We were nicely surprised that they had more than a handful of vegan and vegan optional dishes clearly marked. They use Gardein chick'n substitute for chicken.
We were brought bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to start. I got the Pollo Rosmarino with Gardein vegan chick'n patty, which comes with roasted eggplant, portobello mushroom, zucchini, and red bell peppers, plus a side of your choice of pasta (I got whole wheat spaghetti, which they charge extra for whole wheat). It was so good but I couldn't finish all of it so we both took our leftovers home for lunch the next day. There aren't that many vegan friendly places in VB, so I highly recommend La Bella!
We ended the day with a beautiful but cold and windy sunset on the beach at First Landing State Park on the north end of Virginia Beach. It was very peaceful since we were in a residential area and there were only a few other people and two dogs on the beach.
The next day was my birthday so we decided to check out the #2 thing to do in Virginia Beach, which is the Military Aviation Museum. It is a non-profit museum with the largest private collection of working military plans from WWI and WWII in the world. We're both history nerds and love planes so this was purrrrfect.
One of the first flying planes were by the Wright Brothers, not sure if this one is an original or replica, but it's pretty cool to see in person. We went on a free 1 hour tour with a docent to see three of the five hangers on the property. Our docent was a retired pilot and history teacher, so he shared some very interesting information about the planes and history of the World Wars.
WWI German Fokker Dr.I triplane - three wings didn't fly as well as one.
WWII U.S. Navy trainer plane - Stearman PT-17 Kaydet
WWII U.S. fighter plane - FG-1D Corsair
As we left the museum, we stopped by the museum's small Jurassic Park at the entrance/exit. It seemed a bit random but it was pretty cool to see life-size dinosaur sculptures.
Our next stop was back to First Landing State Park for a 1.5 mile hike through the Bald Cypress Trail. The park is 2,888 acres with 9 different trails making up 19 miles of trails in the park.
The name First Landing commemorates the 1607 landing of the Virginia Company on Cape Henry. The group of settlers that made landfall here eventually moved west and formed Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America.
Bald Cypress trees grow in southern swamps along the trail. The little stumps jutting out of the water are called the tree's "knees". It was a mystical experience walking through the serene swamps and giant trees while breathing in the fresh piney air.
Yes, I'm a tree hugger.
After our hike, we stopped by The Green Cat, a cute juice bar & market owned by a local mom and daughter duo just 5 minutes from our hotel by the beach.
I got the delish Golden Buddha smoothie.
For dinner we walked to Pelon's Baja Grill for their vegan tacos and a chill SoCal vibe!
I got their vegan tofu Pelon's Famous Fish Taco, vegan Carne Asada, and vegan Chicken tacos to try. They also have a vegan Chorizo! My favorite was the flavorful vegan Carne Asada, wished I'd ordered three of those. They can veganize pretty much any dish with all their various mock meats and tofu. They have a tofu scramble as well but we didn't have room for it.
I got to end a fun-filled birthday on a sweet note with a short walk to Y Not Italian for some WildBerry sorbet ;) The restaurant also serves vegan pizzas with Daiya cheese.
The next morning we checked out of our hotel and headed back to The Green Cat for breakfast. They have five oatmeal options and I got the yummy Blueberry & Flax oatmeal.
We ate in their cute patio garden, but occasionally we'd hear the extremely loud military planes fly by because we were near several military bases.
I also got their cold-pressed green juice (it was a bit too sour with all the lemons) for the road to Washington, D.C.
It was a very stormy 3 hour drive to Washington, D.C., which was a bit scary at times when we couldn't see the road. We arrived mid afternoon with 4 hours to spend before our flight, so we visited the National Mall.
Paid our respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Afterwards, we were cold and hungry so we headed to Soupergirl! for their daily plant-based soups. I got the Quinoa Minestrone soup which was so good and comforting. It's a small place with only a standing bar.
Then we escaped the rain by going to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, which was free, as most museums are in D.C.. They had a very interesting exhibition on the history of American food.
In the exhibition was Julia Child's original kitchen, which she'd donated to the museum.
After an hour at the museum, we were exhausted, so we drove to Ronald Reagan Airport in rainy rush hour traffic. At the airport we found Matsutake Sushi right by Gate B's security. They have several vegan options on the menu.
We shared the Vegetarian Bento Box.
Which came with an avocado roll.
We also ordered the Yaki Udon with only vegetables.
“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berry