Part of traveling is eating like the locals. We’re following Sonya’s jet set lifestyle as she travels through India. These delicious parathas are a popular breakfast dish in northern India.
If you aren’t traveling to India anytime soon, you can make them at home following this recipe from vegrecipesofindia.com (visit their website for photos of the step-by-step instructions):
Sonya, TravelPlusWine’s Globetrotting Contributor, is currently jet setting around the globe. Her latest stop? The Taj Mahal in Agra, India. This gorgeous monument was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his third (and favorite) wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child. Construction began in 1632 and was completed in 1648.
This jewel of Muslim art in India is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, the Taj Mahal is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture.
American novelist Bayard Taylor once said, “Did you ever build a castle in the Air? Here is one, brought down to earth and fixed for the wonder of ages.”
As January winds to a close and slips away into the past, have you found yourself losing steam on your New Year’s resolutions (which, I’m guessing, might have included something along the lines of “lose weight, live healthier, get in shape”)?
Expand travel plus wine to travel plus run plus wine. Depending on your fitness level, look for a 5K, 10K, half marathon or even a full marathon in a city you want to visit, book your tickets and start training!
The training will force you to get in shape, and many cities offer run clubs which make the effort fun and social.
Running a race course through a new city is not only exhilarating and a great way to get an eyeful of the city, but also a perfect excuse to travel. And when you’ve finished the race, reward yourself with a visit to the best wine bar in the city … or best Italian restaurant to enjoy a cozy dinner for two accompanied by a wonderful bottle of Chianti … or whatever particular bribe works best for you!
The scenic course starts in downtown Miami, crosses over the Macarthur Causeway to South Beach, takes you a few miles down the beach and then back to downtown.
This year, the weather was perfect and the runners and crowds were vibrant as ever.
Some enticing races coming up that may inspire you:
- Another one in Miami: the 13.1 Miami Beach Half-Marathon and 5K: March 4 (with beachside dancing bash afterwards)
- Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon (Atlanta; 6th Annual): March 18
- New York: 13.1 Half Marathon and 5K: March 24
- Boulder, CO: BolderBoulder 10K: May 28 (Recently named America’s All Time Best 10K by Runner’s World magazine)
- WIPRO San Fransisco Marathon: July 29th (For those who really want a challenge – hills, hills and more hills.)
- Chicago Half Marathon and 5K (16th Annual): September 9. (Perfect time of the year to visit the Windy City!)
And of course, there are thousands of other options out there, all over the globe!
Arguably, Bogota’s best attribute is its expansive selection of unexpectedly enchanting dining establishments. Others may argue that other characteristics deserve that title … its charming people, its wide variety of delicious subtropical fruits, its coffee shops, the prominent mountains that form a distant wall around the city … but in my humble opinion, the restaurants are the hands down winner.
Below are a few options in Colombia’s capital city waiting to delight your senses.
To start the day off on the right foot, visit Abasto in Usaquén district for an amazing weekend brunch. (Preferably on a Sunday; Saturdays are usually quite packed, as this place is not exactly a well-kept secret.) You’ll be charmed the moment you walk in the door, by the cozy Colombian country-style décor, the tempting baked goods placed strategically near the entrance to keep starvation at bay should a table not be immediately available, and the decadent scents wafting from the kitchen, which can immediately be glimpsed through a large open window by the entry. You may see bakers preparing the thickest pancakes you’ve ever seen in your life, or arepas crowned with any number of toppings, or waiters may be bringing out trays of freshly squeezed juice or steaming coffee.
Abasto is furnished with an eclectic mix of wooden tables – as far as I could tell, no two are the same. My favorite is the big wooden table in the back room, where you’ll be surrounded by baskets of fruits and vegetables and shelves of wine, journals, salt and pepper shakers, jars of dates and other such items available for purchase. Once you’re seated, you’ll be faced with the difficult decision of what to order. You can’t go wrong with anything, really – all of Abasto’s dishes are prepared with fresh, natural, locally sourced ingredients and are without exception mouthwateringly delicious – but my personal recommendation is a glass of granadilla juice, fruit salad, huevos rancheros, and if you’re really hungry, accompany all of that with a cheese-topped arepa or one of the raspberry crumbles sitting enticingly on the counter. Then, wash it all down with locally-sourced coffee, or a beautiful aromatica (similar to a tea, but prepared with dried fruits rather than tea leaves.)
To walk off some of those calories, take a stroll afterward through the neighborhood before heading off to your next destination.
If your appetite returns in time for lunch, head to Restaurante Casa at Carrera 13 # 85-24 for a fresh and delicious Mediterrean meal. This is a very pretty part of town, on a street lined with other restaurants and a few classy bars. If it’s a nice day, you can eat outside in the small back courtyard, under leafy oak trees. If it’s not a nice day, and you’re lucky, you’ll get the table inside next to the fireplace.
The juices here are too good to miss, and as beautifully presented as any cocktail. Try the maracuya con menta (passionfruit with mint.) Unusual combination, but it works. If you like seafood, the grouper and avocado appetizer doubles very well as a light meal, or if you’re hungrier, the sea bass with quinoa will delight your tastebuds and fill your belly. If that’s not enough, the French fries here are also sublime. And you should save room for at least a bite of the apple crumble with vanilla ice cream – although I bet you won’t be able to have just one bite.
Another lunch option, if you are really hungry and in the mood for traditional Colombian dishes, is Club Colombia. Like Casa, it was formerly a house, and this restaurant still exudes the serene feeling of a stately older home, with its polished wooden floors, wide staircase and fireplaces. The impeccably dressed waiters seem to have stepped out of a time gone past.
Portions here are generous: a cup of ajiaco or sancocho with a side of empanadas is likely to fill you up.
For dinner, if you happen to be craving sushi or seafood, take a cab to Sushi Gozen. They have the best seaweed salad I’ve had in a long time, consistently fresh, well-prepared sushi and a magnificent seafood and rice platter.
For a unique beverage, try the Umeshu, a Japanese liquor with an unusual taste: complex and slightly sweet. The wine list offers plenty of options to please the palate, or choose a perfectly shaken caipirinha.
You can also find a very nice wine list and exquisite seafood – or meat – or vegetarian options – at Matiz, the perfect choice for a quiet, elegant meal. It could be romantic, but it doesn’t have to be.
THE AFTER PARTY
Finish the night by dancing off some of those calories at Andres. (Conveniently located downtown, it’s a smaller version of the original Andres in Chia … smaller, but just as much fun!) Along with live music and a fun-loving crowd, Andres has an enormous menu of scrumptious beers, cocktails, appetizers and full meals. The lulada is an irresistible concoction including aguardiente and lulo juice, guaranteed to put you in the mood to dance the night away!
The only time stepping inside a building has ever caused my jaw to literally drop in awe was the first time I walked through the doors of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
There are many spectacular buildings in the world, but this Byzantine structure’s blend of sheer size, regal beauty and intricate detail has a unique impact.
My first interior view of the Hagia Sophia (or, Aya Sofya as it is written in Turkish) is of the statuesque entrance hall, whose ornate golden walls and towering arched ceilings are covered entirely with geometric-patterned mosaics.
Inside the hall, informative plaques relate the dramatic history of the Hagia Sophia.
Originally built as a Catholic church in the 6th century AD under orders of Justinian the Great, it fell into Muslim control in 1453 when the Ottomans conquered Instanbul (then Constantinople).
Sultan Mehmet II promptly ordered the Byzantine cathedral to be converted into a mosque. The glittering mosaics on the interior walls depicting Christ, Mary, seraphims and the twelve apostles were covered and overlaid with Muslim symbols and writings of the Koran. Four minarets were added to the exterior.
Centuries later, after Turkey became a secular state, Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered in 1934 that the mosque be converted into a museum. The project of uncovering the original Christian mosaics is still underway.
An expansive, bronze-framed doorway leads from the entrance into the main hall of the Hagia Sophia, the sight of which causes my jaw to drop for a second time, more from its size than anything else.
The vast domed interior is dimly lit with light that pours from windows overhead, illuminating the walls, which are covered with a fascinating mix of peeling paint, Christian mosaics and bold Muslim symbols. A long stone corridor leads to the upper level of the mosque, where the freshly-uncovered mosaics can be seen up close.
Walking distance from the Hagia Sophia, also in Sultanahmet Square, are many other sites that can’t be missed, including Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, and a plethora of carpet shops, bazaars and coffee shops.
Take a taxi to Taksim Square for a glimpse of modern Istanbul: a bustling, brightly lit, seemingly endless stretch of shops, bars, clubs and restaurants.
When planning a trip to Turkey, be sure to leave several days at minimum for Istanbul, because there’s a lot to see in this city.
* Photos courtesy of Sonya Stoa