Thursday, November 29, 2012

Adventures in Adelaide

Adelaide is a special 1-square mile city with an endless number of activities for tourists and city dwellers alike. We stayed at the luxurious Intercontinental Adelaide hotel, which is located right along the River Torrens on North TCE. On the same road lies the SA Museum, SA Art Gallery, the Botanic Gardens, and even the University of Adelaide. The city center is surrounded by green parks perfect for a light stroll or a lazy reading day.The moment I stepped foot onto the city streets I new that I had to take advantage of my time here.

Botanic Gardens of Adelaide:
The Botanic Garden is less than a mile away from the hotel, and provided the perfect setting for a picnic. I purchased some of my favorite goodies from Woolworth's and set up camp under a shady grassy knoll. One important thing to keep in mind: hay fever. As I write this I'm still battling with incredible sinus congestion that makes my head feel as if it's about to pop right off my neck. So beware!

National Wine Centre:
As a big Shiraz fan and an aspiring wine connoisseur I felt compelled to visit the National Wine Centre. It is conveniently located at the western edge of the Botanic Garden, which allows the center's cafe patrons to take in the garden's beauty while enjoying a light bight. I indulged in a $10 wine tasting which included 3 different wines and a generous helping of ciabatta bread and oil.

Henley Beach:
Perhaps the most underrated resource in the city of Adelaide is the free bike rental service it provides. All you have to do is provide a form of ID (passport, driver's license, etc.) and the bike center loans you a bike. What's more, there are bike paths all over the city. I took one that stretched about 16km along the River Torrens from the city centre to Henley Beach. It was an amazing ride:

Vegan Food: 
And I of course sought out vegan restaurants and cafes while in town. After a failed attempt on Sunday night (I walked a mile to the restaurant to find that it is closed on Sundays), I successfully had lunch at Bliss Organic Garden Cafe on two separate occasions. I also tried salads from the Foods For Life Health Foods Store on Gawler Place. To be honest, I didn't think the food was as great as some of the other vegan places I've tried thus far on the tour. The UK vegan food had much better flavor profiles.

Adelaide Central Market:
On my final day in Adelaide I biked to the famous Adelaide Central Market where I found heaps of local fresh produce and fine food products. I had briefly strolled through the market the day before but had no Australian dollars and therefore had zero purchasing power. My wallet was full of the foreign currency on Wednesday and I set my sights on buying a good loaf of bread and some local goat cheese.  It was very satisfactory.

I was enamored with these large canisters of honey

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Quick Stop in Auckland, New Zealand

What better time to travel internationally than during Thanksgiving?

I took the LA Metro to Union Station and then took the Flyaway to LAX. It was kind of a grueling trip with my 25kg luggage (yes, it was 3kg overweight), but at least it was a little workout before my 24 hour travel day. My 11PM flight to New Zealand was perfectly timed. With an entire 4-seat row to myself on the 15-hour flight, I slept soundly for the first 9 hours. After the connecting flight we finally touched base in Auckland at around 5PM.

I instantly fell in love with Auckland's vibrant landscape:

Auckland's cityscape
Sunset at Albert Park
Celebrating Kelsey's birthday at Soul Bar

The next morning Cara and I jogged through the gorgeous Auckland Domain and had lunch at Raw Power Cafe:

The best surprise of the trip was getting a chance to meet up with UCLA friends Rachael and her sister Suzanne after the show on Saturday night. They both have been living in Auckland and knew all the fun spots around town. 

I wish I had more time in New Zealand to explore, but I guess I'll take what I can get.

Next stop, Australia!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Yoga Practice for a Yogi on the Move

The list of things that I learned while being on the road this past month is quite lengthy and includes:

1) Don't use the sink water on the tour bus to brush your teeth
2) Don't eat a full plate of catering before a show
3) Don't drink a full bottle of water during a quick change (major bloating)
4) Don't admit to drunk girls at the club that you dance for _____ (they will try to make you give _____ their phone numbers)

But the most surprising thing for me to learn about tour life was how little we move and exercise. On travel days we sit on the bus for hours and on show days we sit around all day until the performance. To correct my sedentary ways I began jogging every morning. Whether it was on the treadmill or on the city streets, I made sure to do at least 40 minutes of quality heart-pumping running.

By the second week of this workout regimen, however, my hamstrings and back muscles became severely irritated and tight. This was when I discovered the importance of my yoga practice. Yoga is the difference between me feeling awake and sleepy, being focused and distracted, and feeling tight and flexible. I thought I could lead myself through an hour and a half of basic sun salutations and asanas but had a hard time maintaining a flow. And then, I had a revelation: yoga podcasts.

I regularly practiced at the Santa Monica Poweryoga Studio when I lived in Westwood and recently subscribed to Bryan Kest's Poweryoga On Demand. The membership is a scant $16 (which is pocket change compared to the value of a single yoga class) and provides access to dozens of classes taught by Bryan, Anaswara, Travis, and my personal favorite, Vytas. I also downloaded some free podcasts from Yoga to the People off itunes.

Nothing beats being in the studio and feeling the collective energy. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and these podcasts were the perfect solution to my body's aches and pains while on the road. I could practice in the morning before we travelled or at night after a show. I still use the podcasts when I'm back in LA as a supplement to my practice in the studio.

So if you're a yogi on the move or on a budget, I'd really recommend checking it out!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vegan Explorations in the UK

In addition to spending my days off shopping at vintage boutiques I also spend a lot of time searching for and indulging in good food. And mainly at vegan/vegetarian restaurants.

Vegan and raw food is a very "trendy LA/NYC" movement that I thought would be isolated to the coastal states in the US. After a surprisingly nice selection on my Air New Zealand flight (tofu for dinner and lentil cake for breakfast!), I braced myself for a long and boring three weeks of crudite and fruit. I didn't think I could find any restaurant or cafe that could satisfy my vegan cravings. But how wrong I was! Excluding such cities as Sheffield, Manchester, and Newcastle (where I didn't get a chance to really explore), I've been able to cater to my obscure tastes. 

My favorites in LA are Flore and Cafe Gratitude, and they set a high bar for quality vegan fare. Here are a few restaurants I've found to be quite wonderful:

Egg Cafe in Liverpool
You wouldn't be able to find Egg Cafe unless you were on the hunt for it. Located off the main shopping strip in Liverpool, Egg Cafe is three stories up an old warehouse-like building. The wooden chairs and tables give the restaurant an old rustic feel. I ordered the vegan burger patty which came with a green salad, quinoa, and pita. The portions here are quite large and I couldn't finish the single entree on my own:

Food for Thought  in Covent Gardens
After a long day of exploring Brick Lane and Covent Gardens, I used trusty ol' Yelp to help me find this quaint establishment. They had a wide selection of vegan entrees and delicious sides, but by the time I got to it at 7:30PM, mostly everything except the minestrone soup and tofu stir fry were sold out.  The soup was filling and delicious, and the pumpkin side salad was perfectly seasoned.

Inspiral Cafe at Camden Market
Inspiral Cafe is deli style: the different entree and salad selections are displayed in a glass case, you order and receive the food, you pay at the cash register. I ordered a White Russian cocktail and a small 3 salad bowl with root vegetables, sea vegetables and curried quinoa. My buddy Ismael the video content director ordered a passion fruit cheesecake while Arturo the wardrobe assistant ordered the vegan lasagna. My cocktail wasn't too good, but the food was spot on. 

Inspiral Cafe at Camden Market in London
Bumpkin near the V&A Museum
Arturo, Ismael, and I visited the V&A Museum and afterwards, in the spirit of Halloween, had more drinks at Janet's Bar. We weren't satisfied from our elderberry cocktails and vodka sodas and walked down the street to a friendly and classy looking restaurant, Bumpkin. Bumpkin features traditional English food including Bangers and Mash and Fish and Chips made from local and fresh ingredients. I ordered the beet salad and it was totally edible. I also had the Werewolf Cocktail which incorporated seasonal ingredients like pumpkin and cinnamon.
"A Taste of Seasonal Britain"
Werewolf Cocktail with Kobacha pumpkin
Vitao in Soho, London
On my last day off in London, after a very festive Halloween night with the dancers at Club Mahiki in Soho, I took a visit to Oxford Circus and Picadilly Circus. There were a few vegan options that came up on my Yelp, but I was most drawn to Vitao. For lunch, the restaurant offers a buffet setup. You are given either a small, medium, or large plate with which you can only fill up once. There are many Indian inspired dishes as well as fresh original creations. I ordered take out for dinner and much preferred the raw enchilada to the buffet, although both meals were wonderful:

Small plate was about the size of my two hands

Cornucopia in Dublin, Ireland
Just before our show in Dublin yesterday I went for a nice jog to Phoenix Park. It gave me an opportunity to check out some local attractions along the way including the Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Factory. Afterwards, I took a stroll through Temple Bar and found Cornucopia, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. Similar to Inspiral and Egg Cafe, Cornucopia had a glass case showing all the different foods. The line wrapped around the restaurant and the indoor seating was nearly bursting out of capacity. They gave HUGE portions of their fresh fare, and it was a perfect pre-show meal:
Split pea soup, green juice, spelt bread, and 3 side salads
If you are as enamored with vegan food as I am, you should definitely check out these places if you are ever in the UK!