Why Everyone Should Travel Solo

My entire life, I’ve always had great respect for people who did things alone- eating in a restaurant by themselves, going to the doctor by themselves, traveling by themselves. I was always amazed that people could do all that because I never thought I was the type of person who could be so comfortable by myself. That is, until now. This semester abroad has given me so much confidence, I feel like I can do anything! There is no metro system too difficult to figure out, no language barrier too strong, no problem that cannot be outsmarted.

With all this newfound confidence in life, I decided to take matters into my own hands and do the ultimate adult thing- go to Prague all by myself! It sounded a bit crazy, and my mom was definitely not happy about it at first, but going to Prague ended up being one of my favorite trips of the semester.

Here are just a few reasons why everyone should take a solo trip at some point in your life:

1. You can eat whatever you want! For me, this meant going to some of the best (albeit most expensive) restaurants in Prague. Experiencing new food when I travel to new locations is my top priority, but it isn’t everyone’s. This time, I didn’t have anyone to hold me back from having a gourmet meal! (For an extremely unique and mind-blowing meal, be sure to visit Sansho– you won’t be disappointed.)

2. Silence is golden. I absolutely love people, all the new friends I’ve made, and traveling with them has been amazing! But sometimes constantly being with people is exhausting. It’s nice to go to a new city where you don’t know anyone, and you don’t have to utter a single word if you don’t want to. Introverts understand what I mean.

3. Your schedule is the only one that matters. I tend to be a bit of an early bird, but my friends are quite the opposite- and it can be frustrating to try to get everyone up in the morning to go see the sights. This time, however, I could wake up as early as I wanted and take the extra hour to hike across town to find that one specific coffee shop I was looking for. And it didn’t matter if I got lost, because my time was all mine!

4. You can participate in group activities. It’s hard to organize a large group of people to sign up for activities, so I’d never been able to do any of the tours I’d wanted to take. But this time? I signed up for a food tour and had the best four hours of my life. If you’re ever in Prague, sign up for a Taste of Prague tour (or at the very least, check out their restaurant guide. Prague is home to some of the best restaurants in the world)!

5. You can stop to take as many photos as you want. Because there’s no one to yell at you to “hurry up!” when you’re busy trying to take the perfect shot. The only downside to being alone for this is you are forced to either a) take selfies or b) hunt down another lone wolf and ask them to take pictures of you.

6. You can “discover” yourself. I know it’s an overused cliche, but it’s so true- when you go on a journey by yourself, you have time to figure out who you really are and what you really want. Sometimes when life gets busy, you can forget to focus on yourself and your needs, so it’s nice to take a little “me” time every once in awhile, and traveling alone is the perfect excuse!

So the next time you want to go somewhere or do something and can’t recruit anyone to go with you- forget about them.  Go by yourself, eat at a restaurant by yourself, and simply relish in the glory of being in charge of your own destiny.

Happy traveling (solo)!

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When traveling solo, just embrace the selfie… It’s the only way.

A Week in Greece

Hi friends, I’m back! I know it’s been awhile, but gallivanting around Europe is quite time-consuming, so I haven’t had as much time to document my travels as I would have hoped. But no matter… let me pick up with what may have been my favorite trip so far: Greece!

As Zoe and I set off on our week-long adventure, things didn’t start off so well. First, we got ticketed in the Paris airport because we hadn’t bought the right metro ticket (lol). Then, our flight was delayed due to heavy fog. The flight attendants assured us this wouldn’t be an issue, but we were connecting to Greece through Serbia… so by the time we landed in Belgrade, our flight to Greece had already taken off! Long story short, we ended up spending one night in Serbia, the most random country ever. Like seriously, nobody goes to Serbia for vacation- but there we were, stranded for the night.

I didn’t even really know where Serbia was in the world, so here’s a visual:

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Needless to say, we were NOT happy.

However, there wasn’t much we could do about the situation, so we decided to explore Belgrade. Here were a few of the things we learned:

  • Serbia is extremely cheap- everything was so affordable, especially since their currency isn’t worth as much as the Euro.
  • Serbian food is weird and not very good.
  • Belgrade, surprisingly, has great shopping.

And that was about it. We didn’t have time to do much else besides grab a quick meal, buy some souvenirs, and drink a pumpkin spice latte (because being basic is a universal language).

We finally landed in Santorini at 6 am the next day, and after a brief nap, our vacation officially started!

Santorini is a very small island, and we stayed in the center and capital, Fira.

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We spent our first day wandering around the little tourist shops. There are approximately one million stores all selling the same things, so don’t believe the owners when they say that their husbands or fathers make the products “by hand.” Because Santorini is so small, it tends to be a little overpriced as well, so save all the souvenir buying for Athens, like we did!

It wasn’t quite as warm as we had hoped, so we didn’t get to enjoy the beaches- but visiting the famous beaches (like the black beach at Perissa and the Red Beach) was still fun, and it was beautiful despite some cloudy weather.

One of my favorite things we did that week was make the 10 km hike from Fira to Oia. The path takes you along the cliffs of the island and over mountains to reach the northern point, and you get to see the most beautiful views! It took almost three hours and we thought our legs were going to fall off by the time we finished, but it one of our best days on this trip! And Lolita’s Gelato (best gelato on the island and maybe in all of Greece) was awaiting us at the end, so it was all worth it.

The next day, we took a boat out to the volcanic island! We got to ride in a very traditional pirate-ship looking boat, and with a guide, we hiked all the way to the top of the volcano. It’s a dormant one, but since there is still magma underneath, steam was coming out the top!

After hiking around the top (and playing hot potato with some of the hot rocks from the crater), we hiked back down and took the boat around to the other side of the island, where the steam from the magma created hot springs where the volcano meets the ocean. Even though they weren’t all that hot, we jumped in and got to swim! The water was a strange yellow color because of the sulfuric acid, which is supposedly great for your skin and hair (although I have yet to see proof of this). Warning: your swim suit will definitely change color from the water!

Honestly, this was one of the coolest things I have ever done- it was well worth the ear infection that I developed the next day!

A few days into our stay, we discovered the best thing about Santorini- a tiny restaurant called Salt and Pepper. Honestly, this was the only restaurant we ate at that is worthy of any mention here. It’s owned by an adorable old Greek couple- Costas does the cooking and his wife, Irena, serves the guests. They were the most welcoming, kind people ever- and the food was the best we had on the entire island. In fact, we went back three days in a row because we loved it so much!!

Words cannot describe to you how deliciously simple their food is. Every meal is begun with warm, freshly made bread (yes it’s gluten but I couldn’t help myself) and the most delicious dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) that I’ve ever had. They serve all traditional Greek food- some of my favorites included the lamb chops, lamb souvlaki, and the tomato balls (don’t ask, just try them!). It was one of those places where every single thing on the menu was good- if you go to Santorini, this restaurant is a must! Definitely make a reservation, because this place fills up quickly.

We spent our last day in this beautiful country exploring Athens. We didn’t have that much time, but we spent our one day there visiting the Acropolis (fun fact: students get in free!). I got to create so many fun memories and check so many things off my bucket list this trip- I will forever be grateful for my time spent here! Thanks for the memories ❤

 

Happy travels!

Eating My Way Through Italy

Ah, Italy. The land of gelato, cheese, and wine. As a wise person* once said, Italy is truly “what dreams are made of.”

*yes, I am referring to Lizzie McGuire, thank you very much.

I’m a bit behind on my blog posts, but I wanted to share my amazing weekend in Italy with you all!

If you follow my Instagram account (@sarahcmcdaniel), then you noticed my friend Zoe and I went to Pisa a few weekends ago. Let me just tell you right off the bat; Pisa is not the best place to stay in Italy. It’s not a very pretty town, and besides taking the typical pictures holding up the Leaning Tower, there isn’t much to do there. However, we were balling on a budget and Pisa was the cheapest plane ticket we could find, so we made it work. Luckily, Pisa is in close proximity to many other neat cities, so we just spent one afternoon in Pisa, and spent the rest of the time traveling around the Tuscan countryside.

 

Our first stop was in Lucca, Italy. I don’t even have the words to explain how quaint this quiet little town was. An ancient walled city teeming with open markets, cafes, adorable shops, and of course, gelaterias, Lucca is a perfect place to really experience the Italian culture without feeling touristy.

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We ate lunch on the outer wall of the city (after having a quick photo shoot, because the view was gorgeous and dang it we looked good that day), and then spent the rest of the afternoon spending way too much money on Italian leather purses and gelato (I’m not ashamed to admit I had three gelatos that day). That night, we even found gluten free pizza- Pizzeria Mara Meo had the best GF pizza crust I’ve ever had!

The next day, we took the train to Cinque Terre. If you EVER have the opportunity to visit, DO IT. Honestly, this day was one of the best days in my entire life. Cinque Terre is a string of five ancient seaside villages that dot the northwestern coast of Italy. We were only able to visit three that day, but it was still a success!

Our first stop was in Manarola. This is the city with the most iconic views, so obviously we knew we had to go take some pictures! I also had gelato here (for breakfast), and although I can’t remember where exactly I bought it from, I’m 99% sure it was the best gelato I’ve ever had.

Our next stop was Monterosso. Although it isn’t necessarily  the most beautiful village in Cinque Terre, this is where the best beach is! We ate fried calamari (for Zoe) and french fries and gelato (for me) in the sand, and rented paddle boards for the afternoon! Unfortunately I don’t have any photo evidence of us doing this, but I was pretty good at it, if I do say so myself!

Our last stop of the day was in Vernazza. This is one of the biggest cities in Cinque Terre, so we spent our last evening looking at the many shops and exploring the coast. For dinner, we ate fresh seafood (I ordered the catch of the day, and they brought out the entire fish!), and sipped prosecco by the water.

There is no such thing as a perfect vacation- there will always be mishaps with trains, unexpected delays, and problems with the language barrier. But that’s what traveling is all about: exploring new places and trying new things with new people! And by those standards, this trip was as perfect as it gets.

Happy traveling!

Sarah

 

Things I Miss the Most About America

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed about living in France. Anyone who knows me at all knows that my love of dressing in stripes and partaking in good food and wine obviously mean I should be European. My obsession with the French culture only escalated when I first arrived in the country. How could I not be in love with the country of wine, cheese, and picture-perfect villages in the countryside? Even the farm animals are prettier here, for crying out loud.

However, I have now been in France for one month, and as much as I love this country, let me tell you… there is something to be said for the good ole US of A. Here are some of the things I miss the most about the motherland:

8) English. I realize that the point of coming to France is being immersed in the language and culture. And while French is a beautiful language and I have learned so much since I first arrived, there is something to be said for being able to understand 100% of what is happening around you. It’s very awkward when a stranger engages you in a nice conversation and you think you’re doing a great job telling them your life story when really they were just asking for the time.

7) Granola Bars. Ok, I am aware that I am surrounded by some of the best food in the world. I can assure you, I certainly consume my fair share of fine cheeses, crepes, and macaroons- but let’s face it, I’m broke, and sometimes it would be nice to have a Kind bar to stave off your hunger during the 3 hour classes. Seriously, I need to have a talk with someone important who can get Kind Bars to go international.

6) Air conditioning. Why doesn’t this continent have A/C?!?!?

5) Screens. As in, the kind that goes on your window. Because there is no air conditioning in any building (see above), you’re forced to have the windows open at all times to get some air flow in the rooms. Except now you have a million insects flying around, because nobody seems to know about the newfangled invention that allows air into a room but keeps bugs outside.

4) Snapchat Stories. Go ahead, judge me. I derive a significant amount of pleasure from reading the Cosmopolitan Snapchat story every day. However, once you’ve been in another country for three weeks, it suddenly changes all the stories to the language of that country. Since French class doesn’t teach you the type of vocabulary that Cosmo uses and my poor translation skills just don’t do it justice, I must now wait until December to resume my daily guilty pleasure.

3) Convenience in general. Need something from the grocery store after 7 pm? Need to visit a bank or other important institution during your lunch break? Want to go absolutely anywhere on a Sunday? Forget about it. The French people love their two hour lunch breaks, and smoke breaks, and weekends, and in general prefer to work as little as possible. Which I obviously don’t blame them for, but it makes for a very stressful customer experience when you need to get anything done.

2) Peanut Butter. Or any sort of almond butter, cashew butter, etc. I love Nutella just as much as the next person (or probably more, since I eat it with every meal), but sometimes a girl just needs a spoonful of peanut butter to make it through the day. Also, how do people live their whole lives without PB&J?!?

1) Electricity. Not that I don’t have electricity here in France, because I do! But ohh boy it is not the same. Not only do you have to use an adapter to use everything that needs to be plugged into the wall, you also need a converter to convert the American voltage to European voltage, which renders half of your appliances absolutely useless. Additionally, sometimes your converter makes your electronics become so hot they almost explode, and when you go to unplug them from the wall, you actually get electrocuted and accidentally blow all the fuses in your dorm. TRUE STORY PEOPLE.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love it here. I am having the time of my life, and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. However, I’m simply beginning to realize that nothing is perfect. What we lack in the art of leisure time and long meals in America, we make up for with efficiency and convenience- and vice versa.

As much as I love experiencing the European way of life, America will always be my home. And you know what they say: there’s no place like home.

xoxo,

Sarah

The Adventure Begins

So… I finally made it to France! The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activities and emotions, but I am settled into my new home in Rouen and am ready to get this semester started!

Our first stop was  Paris, where we spent a few days sightseeing (and eating) until our feet and stomachs couldn’t take anymore. We found our favorite restaurant on our very first night in the city:  Le Père Claude, where we discovered the best roasted chicken EVER.

 

Next, we spent a day at the beautiful palace of Versailles. The gardens are a must-see; it is well worth the drive from Paris!

 

Then we were off to the city of Mont-Saint-Michel. What a day! We were up early to beat the crowds, and had to sprint to the top of the mountain to buy tickets for a guided tour, but the view was worth all the walking. If you ever have the chance to visit, Mont-Saint-Michel has a fascinating history and fantastic views of the surrounding area.

Although we didn’t eat in the town because it was crowded and a bit touristy, we stopped in the nearby town of Avranches for lunch. We came across Le pot d’étain  by complete accident, but was a huge hit, because (drum roll)… THEY HAD GLUTEN FREE CRÊPES! Traditional Breton crêpes, which are a savory version known as galettes, use buckwheat flour and are naturally gluten free. The desert kind uses normal flour, but luckily I knew enough French to ask for it to be served with the buckwheat crêpe instead. This restaurant is highly recommended for everyone, but especially my fellow celiacs out there!

 

My personal favorite, the town of Honfleur, was our next detour. Located near where the Seine river meets the ocean, this old world city looked just like a postcard. This quintessential town is exactly what I imagined France would be like:

 

And finally, we arrived at the city of Rouen, where I will be spending the next four months studying at the NEOMA Business School. Although it is not what I initially expected (I literally broke down into tears at the first glimpse of my dorm room), this town is slowly growing on me the longer I’m here.

I look forward to more adventures, so stay tuned for more of my favorite discoveries, both in Rouen and around Europe!

Happy travels,

Sarah

 

 

 

#tbt: a British Adventure

One of the best trips I’ve ever taken was my family’s summer vacation to England last year. It was amazing for a lot of reasons: lovely scenery, fascinating historical sites, world-class museums, and of course… the food. Although England tends to get a bad rap for its cuisine (black pudding, anyone?), my family and I were shocked to find that England could serve up some of the best meals we had ever eaten. I was especially surprised to find that the gluten-free trend is even bigger across the pond!

Every restaurant we visited  had an extensive gluten-free menu and went out of their way to ensure that I was happy with my meal, and bakeries always had at least a couple gluten-free pastries to choose from. This was night and day from here in America, where we are hard pressed to even get a gluten free bun with our burgers!

We traveled all over the country, from London to Oxford and up into the Cotswolds, and I swear we didn’t have a bad meal the whole time. Here were a few of my favorites:

Jamie’s Italian: Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant in Oxford was our first meal we had in the country. After a red-eye flight, renting cars and driving into Oxford, we were all delirious and starving; this was the perfect remedy. Italian food usually doesn’t bode well for us celiacs, but to my delight, I was actually able to enjoy homemade gluten-free pasta for once!

Traditional Afternoon Tea at The Brown Hotel: you know something’s good when your mom steals your GF scones because they are better than the ones with gluten. I ate my weight and then some in scrumptious tea sandwiches, cookies, scones, and desserts of every kind and did not regret a single thing. For anyone who even remotely enjoys tea, this is a MUST.

Bread Street Kitchen: despite the name, this restaurant had plenty of gluten free options, and even had homemade gluten free bread! One of Gordon Ramsay’s 14 restaurants in London, this is the perfect spot for a high-quality GF feast (the duck was amazing)- and maybe even a sighting of the famous chef yelling at some unlucky chaps like he does on TV.

The Wild Rabbit: this was truly the most charming inn I have ever stayed in, and the food did not disappoint either. Everything was fresh from their own gardens or from the Daylesford Farm just down the road in Kingham, England. The shop and restaurants at this all-organic farm were phenomenal, with everything local, fresh, and in season. As always, homemade gluten-free bread was served, and it was delicious.

For those of you who scoff at gluten-free food, I want to remind you that my parents (who are quite the food snobs-  in a good way!) thoroughly enjoyed both the allergy-friendly options as well as the gluten-filled meals at these restaurants. That’s what made them so perfect- there was something for everyone!

Although visiting some of the many breweries and pubs around England was a fun experience, unfortunately beer was out of the question for me. Luckily, most also offered ciders- they are usually gluten-free, but the staff was always very helpful in helping me find something I could drink!

Besides eating and drinking, England is filled with so many lovely things to do. Summertime is a perfect time to visit, so you can soak up the sunshine doing a biking tour of all the sights, or stroll along the Thames river sipping a Pimm’s (literally the best drink ever!). In the summer, there are also plenty of farmer’s markets and stands selling local produce and freshly made baked goods (with GF options, obviously). Don’t be afraid to travel off the beaten path, because you never know what you might find!

Happy travels,

The Wandering Celiac

Seven Reasons to Visit Grand Cayman

Nestled in the Caribbean Sea just south of Cuba, lies one of the most amazing islands I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

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The Cayman Islands are a small British territory in the Caribbean made up of three tiny islands. Grand Cayman, the biggest, is a popular vacation spot due to its crystal clear water, sublime snorkeling and diving sites, and pristine beaches.

My family is not one to visit the same location twice (I visited  once in high school), but I had the opportunity to take this trip with my boyfriend’s family, and I am so glad that I did. Although I tend to take vacation as an excuse to visit a new and exotic location, revisiting the island was nice, as I had a good sense of what I wanted to do and what restaurants to visit (and which ones to avoid!)

If you are ever looking into a Caribbean vacation, the Cayman Islands should definitely be on your list. Here are a few reasons why (in no particular order):

7) Seven Mile Beach

Ok, so it’s not actually seven miles long… it’s only 6.3 miles from one end to the other. But still, that is one huge beach. This is a popular strip  dotted with hotels and condos, so it can be a bit crowded in peak season, and for good reason. The blue water is so clear, you can see the ripples on the bottom of the sand from the surface of the water and depths of over 30 feet. The sand is so white and soft, it looks like it might have been Photoshopped. And, let’s not forget the many hotels with swim-up bars offering freshly made pina coladas and mudslides. Which brings me to my next reason…

6) Mudslides

Three words: Ice cream (technically two, but bear with me here). Chocolate. Alcohol.

Basically, when you combine these three things together, you get a chocolately milkshake that makes you sort of tipsy that you can enjoy freely on the beach at anytime of the day, whether it be noon or midnight (seriously… day drinking is encouraged in the islands). Rum Point Beach is world famous for its signature mudslides, although the pina coladas at nearly every beach bar on the island are also spot-on.

5) Live entertainment

There is almost nothing better in the world than feeling the warm island breeze on your face while listening to the soft drumming of the bongos. My boyfriend’s mom was obsessed with one of the local bands on the island, Hi Tide, which did covers of favorites such as Jimmy Buffett and Jack Johnson. She was so obsessed, in fact, that in the seven days we were there, we went to three of their performances.

4) Snorkeling and Diving

I have done my fair share of snorkeling- in Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico- but nothing that I’ve seen so far has beat the snorkeling in Grand Cayman. Although I have never gone scuba diving myself (and never will, thanks to an eardrum that refuses to stay intact), I have heard from numerous friends that the diving was also out-of-this world amazing. The water is so clear, you can see forever- and the abundance of fish, turtles, and stingrays glide right past you as if you are one of them.

3) Mudslides

Yes, I know I already said it. They’re that good.

2) Fresh seafood

I’m pretty sure I had fresh fish or seafood of some sort every single day while in Grand Cayman. My favorite- and I mean all time favorite– spot for fish tacos is the Sunshine Grill. It’s the weirdest little restaurant, placed smack dab in the middle of the pool at a hotel (the Sunshine Suites, I believe); but if you can get over the fact that you can watch random people swimming while you stuff your face, it’s great. The Mahi Mahi fish tacos- those alone are worth the plane ride.

1) Stingray City

There are absolutely no words to describe the experience of having wild stingrays come up to you and swim right into your arms. Despite their bad reputation, these slimy creatures are actually quite sweet, as long as you follow your guide’s instructions and don’t step on one! And although it can definitely be nerve-wracking to have hundreds of them swarming you for food, it is truly one of the coolest things I have ever done in my entire life. Make sure to kiss one right on the snout for seven years of good luck!

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Please ignore my squinty-eyed cheesy grin: LOOK HOW BIG THIS THING WAS!!

 

Where was the best vacation you ever had? I want to hear your stories!

xoxo,

Sarah

 

The One at the Beginning

My very first blog post… this is how you know you’ve made it. I now belong to the super cool elite society of amateur bloggers, right?

Yeah, probably not. But I started this blog so you all could follow me on my various trips and adventures (and so I don’t annoy my friends by telling them too many stories that they don’t care about). I know firsthand how difficult it is to travel when you are limited to a gluten-free lifestyle, and hopefully I can help celiac sufferers like myself find great food even in foreign countries.

I’ll do some recaps on the amazing places I’ve gone to so far, and stay tuned later this summer for some of my upcoming travels!

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I’m excited… how about you?!?!

xoxo,

Sarah Cherie, the Wandering Celiac