Day 135: Is Sustainable Travel a Thing?

On day 135 of the Nowhere To Be Project, Vail, Colorado (my chosen hometown) was bestowed with the elusive title of “sustainable destination”. This is quite an honor considering that no other mountain resorts in the world have the right to carry the moniker. Exciting, I know, but what does it really mean?

Front page news in Vail today!

We’ve all seen the signs in hotels asking us to reuse towels to save water, but true sustainability goes way beyond that. A sustainable destination is one that focuses on environmental, cultural and economic preservation. In other words, formal procedures must be in place to protect and preserve nature, wildlife, regional history and customs, and to contribute to and support the local economy.

In Vail, plastic bags were banned quite some time ago and every public waste receptacle provides an education on items that can be recycled versus those that will end up in a landfill. There is also a profound focus on the restoration and preservation of natural resources and wildlife. Citizens benefit not only from an outstanding quality of life here in the mountains, but from a fabulous public transportation system and a push toward environmentally responsible affordable housing. All of these things (and many more) helped contribute to the title of sustainable destination.

Vail’s approach to rubbish!

All of the hoopla made me wonder how many travelers really consider sustainability when choosing a destination. According to recent research, that number hovers at just over half! As a frequent camper, the practice of “leave no trace” is a personal mantra, but I had no idea that so many other travelers prioritized it as well. It demonstrates that a zero footprint approach to travel should not end when the tent is packed away and the fact that one of the most popular resort towns in the world sees this is very encouraging.

Are you a sustainable traveler?

Day 132: Perpetually Packed – The Five Must-Have Items for Travel

Day 132 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought me the sudden realization that I pretty much live out of a bag. I do have a home base that is filled with a lifetime of memories and possessions, but with a life of near constant travel, my suitcase definitely gets much more use than my closet. Even when I’m home (as I have been for the past couple weeks), I keep the bag packed.

The Puddle Jumper by Lug is my favorite bag!

You may be wondering what the heck is in this always-at-the-ready travel bag? Besides about ten monochromatic mix and match (always black except for summer when white is prominent) wardrobe staples, I have several must have items with me always.

1- Small Toiletry Kit stocked with essentials: medication, toothbrush, SPF moisturizer and lip gloss. I use a zippered clutch that doubles as a purse with a pop of color.

2- Eye-mask and Earplugs – I protect good sleep no matter where I might be in the world! These two are sleep’s best friends!

3- Inflatable Pillow and DreamSack – These small luxuries are the (slightly larger) natural extensions of the eye-mask and earplugs. They take just a few cubic inches of space yet create a clean sleeping space anywhere.

4- Smartphone with Charger – A globally-enabled smartphone is a no-brainer. It provides basic tools like a compass and flashlight along with the ability to communicate and stay entertained. Mine is loaded with favorite travel and entertainment apps.

5- Noise Canceling Headphones – The tiny pocket headphones that we all use everyday may seem more practical for some travelers, but I find that they are not as effective in noisy conditions…R.V., airplane, ship, etc. Noise canceling headphones make movies, music and audio books a possibility in any setting.

What’s in your bag???

The DreamSack is a portable silk sleeping bag.

Day 130: Cultural Immersion Via Gastronomy

Day 130 of the Nowhere To Be Project fell on a Sunday. No matter where I am in the world, summer Sundays are synonymous with farmer’s markets. Buying local food directly from the source provides an unmatched opportunity for cultural immersion. If you’re like me, you worship food and understand that it, alone, holds the key to truly understanding the nuances of a locale.

The farmer’s market in Vail today was bursting with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and squash. These flavors reminded me of a delicious Tuscan Panzanella I once experienced (yes, food should be an experience!). With that sensory memory as my inspiration I created a quick yet magnificent slow cooker lasagna. It is naturally plant-based and dairy-free, and to be completely honest, it is so decadent that you wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t told you! Enjoy and be sure to share!

TUSCAN PANZANELLA LASAGNA🌿🍅

Ingredients

1/2 pound assorted varieties of squash, thinly sliced*

1/2 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced

4 cups of your favorite homemade or store-bought marinara sauce**

1 ball of fresh plant-based mozzarella cheese, sliced***

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

Oven ready dried lasagna noodles****

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation

-Begin by drizzling a bit of the EVOO into the slow cooker.

-Add a ladle full of tomato sauce to the slow cooker.

-Crack the lasagna noodles to fit the slow cooker, creating a single layer on top of the sauce.

-Drizzle a tad more EVOO on top of the dried pasta.

-Use the 1/2 of the sliced mozzarella to create the filling for the first layer of the lasagna, topping it with another layer of dried pasta and a ladle of sauce.

-Use the sliced squash to create the second layer of the lasagna, dusting it with EVOO, salt and pepper before adding another layer of dried pasta and more marinara.

-Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a single layer directly on top of the dried pasta.

-Sprinkle the chopped basil and garlic on top of the tomatoes along with another light dusting of EVOO, salt and pepper.

-Crumble the remaining mozzarella on top of the tomatoes before pouring the remaining sauce in the slow cooker.

-Cook on high for two hours and then turn the heat to low and cook for another hour or so, until brown and bubbly.

-Let the lasagna sit at room temperature in the slow cooker crock for 30 minutes before serving.

-Serve with garlic bread to mop up every morsel of deliciousness!

Notes

*I used patty pan and zucchini squash.

**Victoria White Linen is a wonderful option (and what I used) for simple marinara sauce.

***Miyoko’s makes an amazing vegan mozzarella that tastes and melts just like dairy cheese. I used this in the dish.

****Never assume that any pasta is vegan as many are made with eggs. I used PastamorĂ© dried lasagna noodles, purchased at the farmer’s market.

Day 129: Tipsy Travel


On day 129 of the Nowhere To be Project we scheduled a tour of the original Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Dublin. We’ll be visiting Ireland in a few weeks and knew that it was an essential excursion. No matter where we are in the world, one of our favorite things to do is to seek out the local vintages, brews and spirits. We usually prefer to do it in local pubs because they usually provide an intimate connection to the culture of a place, but visiting distilleries, microbrews and vineyards offers unique opportunities for connecting more deeply with the libations of a locale as well. Some of our favorite tastes along the way have been the wines of France, the vodka of Russia, the Kölsch in Cologne, Germany Related Blog Post and the gluhwein of the European Christmas markets. We’re currently abstaining from alcohol as a sort of cleanse for the liver before the storm that will undoubtedly ensue on our upcoming British Isles Explorer voyage on the Viking Sky. If traveling tipsy is wrong, we certainly don’t want to be right.

Day 127: Looking For A City’s Secrets? Follow the Coffee

On Day 127 of the Nowhere To Be Project coffee was on my mind. I am NOT a Starbucks person. I am certain the Starbuck’s fans are now hurling spit balls at the screen, but hear me out. You could be in any Starbucks in the world and it would look, feel, smell and taste the same. I know some people love that type of predictability hence the popularity of worldwide chains. I, however, cannot stand it. In my mind, there is no place better for connecting with a culture than the local independent coffee shop, whether it be in Paris, Vienna or Vail, Colorado.

There are a few independent coffee shops in the Vail Valley. Yeti’s Grind has a cozy location in Vail Village, and another in Eagle. It offers mostly standard brews and a limited snack-type menu. My favorite thing about Yeti’s Grind is their local feel and adorable branded merchandise.

The Bookworm Cafe is located in Edwards, housed within a popular bookstore. They share the local vibe of Yeti’s Grind, but add a kitcheny feel to it. In other words, sipping coffee here makes one feel as if they’re in a friend’s kitchen. The Bookworm Cafe has good coffee, but amazing soups! This makes their monthly soup subscription popular with locals.

My new favorite coffee shop is actually more of a market. Hovey & Harrison is a relative newcomer in the Vail Valley with just over one year of business under their belts. I would describe their bright and open space as industrial farmhouse. It includes a market section with fresh fruits and vegetables, a space for prepared meals and spices to go, and a bakery/cafe. The cafe offers an interesting and thoughtful menu chock full of unique coffees, teas, beers and wines. I am happy to share that I enjoyed the best latte of my life at Hovey & Harrison. The drink was a ginger-turmeric latte and it was fabulous beyond words with a smooth, mild and ever so slightly spicy taste. I would have liked it even more if the almond milk used to create it was unsweetened. That leads me to the only bit of advice I might offer the pros at my new favorite, please add a non-sweetened plant milk to the list of options for those who, like me, try to limit sugar in their diets.

Ginger Turmeric Latte
Local produce at Hovey & Harrison

Day 126: Coming Home to the Alps at Almresi, Vail

On day 126 of the Nowhere To Be Project I lunched at one my favorite emerging restaurants in Vail, Almresi. It has not been around as long as the old standards La Tour and Sweet Basil, but what it lacks in age it more than makes up for in passion. Stepping into Almresi always makes me feel as if I’ve dropped in on a dear friend in the Swiss Alps. The ambiance is solidly European with no detail overlooked. Every corner of this beautiful space is pleasing to the eye and spirit, from the etched crystal stemware to the lovely family style booths to the all-season outdoor dining deck. The superbly trained staff hail from Austria and Germany and dress in the most beautiful Dirndl and Lederhosen, adding to the authenticity at Almresi.

I have visited the restaurant many times over the past year and a half and have never been disappointed. The food is unique, fresh and delicious, and the staff is always willing to make accommodations to satisfy my vegan diet. For example, today I had a fig and arugula tarte flambĂ©. The dish is typically prepared with goat cheese, but I was able to substitute that with a yummy balsamic reduction. It was outstanding and rivaled any I’ve enjoyed in the Alsace region. The bar is fabulous as well (hello gluhwein!), especially as an après ski option.

Almresi is always at the top of my list when entertaining out of town guests and I love the space so much that I would consider hosting a private gathering there as well. If you’re looking for a one-of-kind dining experience in Vail, head to Almresi. If you’re short on time you can grab a yummy baked good or pretzel at their adorable outdoor Resi-To-Go counter.

As always, I share my personal, unbiased experiences and am never compensated in any way, shape or form.

Day 125: I Did Not Inhale in Eagle-Vail

Day 125 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought me to the town of Eagle-Vail. You’ve probably never heard of Eagle-Vail, but it is an astoundingly popular destination for Vail Valley visitors and locals alike. It is just a few short miles from the resort areas of Vail and Beaver Creek and yet appears as if it could be on the other side of the Earth. The town’s popularity isn’t a result of great views or killer ski runs though. Okay, I’ll give you a hint…Eagle-Vail is nicknamed the “green mile”. You guessed it, visitors mainly come to this I-70 adjacent town to legally purchase marijuana because it is the one of the few spots to buy weed in Eagle County.

The main drag in Eagle-Vail is Highway 6 and it is most definitely peppered with pot shops. I am not a marijuana user, but if I was I would compare these establishment to Parisian boutiques in terms of their originality and coveted designs. From chocolates to gummies to plain old ganja, there is something to satisfy each and every doobie brother and sister. From what I’ve been told, the staff in these retail outlets are highly trained thus able to make suggestions for recreational and medicinal use. Not surprisingly, many tourists navigate pot tours much like wine lovers chase the best vineyards throughout Napa Valley.

Not to be a party-pooper, but I come to Eagle-Vail solely for the food. My favorite is Ti Amo, a northern Italian trattoria that serves deliciously homemade and creative dishes (many vegetarian and vegan).

The prices for entrees are about one-third of what you’d pay for a comparable meal in Vail Village making them much tastier! Other notable Eagle-Vail attractions include the Vail Brewing Company and a public golf course. No matter your motivation for visiting, you’ll no doubt find something to satisfy in Eagle-Vail.

Day 122: Don’t Miss Minturn

On Day 122 of the Nowhere To Be Project I took a break from the still crowded sidewalks of Vail to visit the town of Minturn. This tucked away town is just a few miles from Vail, but feels as if it is a world away. I’ve been visiting Minturn for 40+ years and in all that time it has managed to hang on to its rebellious spirit.

If Vail is primped and puckered, Minturn is well-worn and drooling. Minturn has just refused to shake its anti-establishment vibe in the face of the resortization (did I just create a word?) of mountain towns and that most definitely adds to its appeal.

Minturn was established in the late 1800s as a mining and railroad town. The mine and the rails are long gone, but the pioneer spirit remains in the town’s historic buildings, rushing waters and narrow streets. Situated at the confluence of Gore Creek and the Eagle River, restaurants and shops of assorted varieties dot Minturn’s Main Street. On summer Saturdays from 9am until 2pm local artisans, growers and food trucks flood the Minturn Farmer’s Market. The selection rivals other summer markets in the Vail Valley and prices are a tad lower. Simply stated, Minturn is a fun spot to wander for a few hours, especially if you’re looking to give your wallet a break from the highfalutin surrounding ski towns.

Day 117: Scheduling Down Time Mid-Travel

My seemingly endless tank of traveling energy ran dry on day 117 of the Nowhere To Be Project. I have been entertaining guests in Vail for the past couple of weeks and have been constantly exploring, celebrating and indulging. This isn’t uncommon for travel addicts because we just want to see and do it all. The funny thing about travel is that it is, by nature, self-indulgent because we’re focused on seeing things and places of interest to us. Yet we betray this selfishness by burning the candle at both ends to experience it all, all the time! Over time, this can be grueling for both mind and spirit. With the exception of spa-centric trips, scheduling down time during a trip is not the norm. Due to my depleted energy levels, I am making a vow to schedule time to unplug from now on. This means mixing in time for a twenty minute nap in the midst of intense sightseeing. A long hot shower in the middle of the day might do the trick as well. Likewise with a dip in a local pool or hot spring. Whatever it is, wherever you are, make time for renewal as this ensures that the passionate flame of travel endures.

Day 116: Summer Markets in Vail

On Day 116 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself at my very favorite summer market, the Vail Farmer’s Market. The market winds through the village and is stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, beautiful blooms, a vast variety of handcrafted local foods, goods and art. Patrons walk the streets to the tune of live jazz music and the sounds of the rushing water in Gore Creek while marveling at the blossoming flower baskets perched in every nook and cranny of this lovely alpine town. Among my favorite finds are the local Palisades peaches, the amazing juices and snacks at the all vegan Green Elephant Juicery and the cute hand painted clogs by the Swedish Clog Cabin (I’ve literally been a fan of their designs since I began walking:-). Vail’s summer market is always ranked among the best farmer’s markets in the west and as a connoisseur of sorts, I would place it among the top in the whole world. People come from all around the globe to visit the wondrous mountain village of Vail and those who are lucky enough to be here on a summer Sunday soon realize that the Vail Farmer’s Market is a must see!