I had the amazing opportunity to go to Europe and South Africa to travel with my best friend. Specifically Italy, Spain, London, and Cape Town. These next few blog posts will showcase the highlights of my trip, how I managed to stay somewhat holistic, and of course, the insanely delicious and sometimes nutritious eats along the way. Enjoy <3
I’m known to make some pretty impulsive decisions in my day, but this one was probably the smartest. Life is short. You can be gone in a minute. Read the newspaper or turn on the tele and you will figure that out pretty quick. Book the flights. Quit your job. End the relationship. Just do what it is that lights your soul on fire and go do that. I was craving travel, but kept coming up with excuses not to do it. So when the opportunity arose, and the stars aligned perfectly so that I was able to go without stressing about finances, work, my puppy, I knew I had to jump on a plane. Sometimes when I’m grinding at home in Kelowna I forget there’s a big, beautiful world out there that I must adventure.
I flew in to Gatwick, London. The only solo navigating I had to do this trip was figure out how to get to our cute little Hotel from the airport (as Jessica wouldn’t be flying in for a few more hours) and I completed the task pretty flawlessly if I do say so myself. I mean, definitely almost hopped into the wrong shuttle but the nice lad directed me to the correct one. After a much needed glass of Rose and an even more needed nap, I woke up to my best friend Jess at the door. She has been travelling 5 weeks thus far, and has already been to Scotland, Ireland, and Germany! Lucky gal.
I’m sure I would love solo travelling. I am always stirring up conversation with whomever will listen to me blab about my life, but I prefer to travel with someone else. My biggest trips in the past-Thailand, Central America, and Texas-were all with at least 4 girls and I loved the variety of personalities and the merriment of us all together. Jess is my best friend of 22 years. There’s no one else I’d rather be exploring the world with. The fact that on day 2 I’ve already peed my pants laughing means this is going to be a-pardon my french, or italian?-fucking awesome trip.
We arrived in Venice and immediately got lost (thanks to me) during our walk to tour hotel. Jessica is definitely the navigator but I still somehow managed to screw it up. The first of many times. Jess and I talked about how weird it was that we maintained our friendship this far. Like why? Why us? Why did we choose one another as our person. We don’t even have anything in common anymore. Jess is a hardcore vegan into Vampire Diaries and anything mythology and my hobbies include dodging carbohydrates for nutrient dense game meat and swinging kettle bells. I literally ate olives for breakfast (after fasting of course) while she had a vegan breakfast that was accompanied by surging blood sugar levels. I also have a burning desire to exercise any chance I get, so maybe it wasn’t by accident that I gave her the wrong address so we had to walk 20 minutes extra to get to our hotel?
Regardless, we still finish each others sentences, reminisce over 22 years of good times, and hold each other's secrets that nobody else will ever know. She’s my person, and here we are in Italy together about to drink fantastic wine and eat gluten and dairy rich pizza and pasta create even more memories that we will laugh about in the future. Like the fact that she has said “reckon” every second sentence and thinks she has blended into the culture since she spent a hot minute in London. Anyways, I am so extremely blessed to be on this trip with her, and i know it will be an epic vacation. Let’s start with Venice.
Venice is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been too. There’s no doubt about it. Kelowna, yes you are my paradise but Venice, ah Venice. There’s nothing like it. There is so much history and culture, so much beauty and romance. Walking throughout the maze that is Venice to catch our gondola was such a beautiful experience. It was chilly but our curiosity kept us warm. Thanks to google maps we managed to weave through the city finding creamy gelato on the way. Cookies and cream for me and mango for Jess. Yep, even our favourite ice cream flavours are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The gondola ride was as magical as can be, but I think in the future it would be nice to have Champagne and be serenaded. Take note future husband.
On the first night Jessica and I were determined to have pasta. First of all, I am hands down gluten and dairy free. But when you’re in Venice, you eat pasta. And pizza. And whatever else you fancy. No, not because you are on Vacation and you deserve to be gluttonous, but because you are here to experience their culture. Luckily my dietary restrictions aren’t as severe and my totally amazing optimal gut health allows me to eat whatever I please. FYI, stay tuned for my Love Your Guts E-course, and then you yourself will have guts of steel!
Every meal I ate, I ate with intention. I mean, I won’t lie, after Jessica and I landed the most authentic little family run pasta place, ordered THE MOST incredible pasta (I found my pesto dream pasta), upon receiving the dish we asked each other if A) do you think our hotel has a microwave we can use? And b) can they give us take home cutlery with our leftovers. 3 minutes later we finished our pasta. There were no leftovers. There was never going to be leftovers. What ever were we thinking?
After dinner we found a cute little cafe pub, sat next to two 90 yr old men, and chatted for hours. The conversation was hard at first, and consisted of them saying “bella” and us replying with “gratzi” back and forth, but Jessica then downloaded a translator app and we soon found out that they were just “honest men” who worked very hard. Oh and Maurice doesn’t like Limoncello’s, Italy’s signature after dinner appertif.
Overall my experience in Venice was absolutely perfect. We ate pizza, pasta, drank wine, and walked around old Italy until our feet hurt! I will most definitely be back. Thank you Venice for an unforgettable experience.
“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.” Alexander Herzen
Next stop: La Spezia.
La Spezia is a beautiful little town along the east northern coast, only minutes away from the famous Cinque Terre region that contains 5 little adorable towns. Since we got in later in the evening, our first night we stayed in our ‘close and cozy’ Air BNB (highly recommend this exact one) and enjoyed the bottle of Rose Bubbles that Fabio got for us, along with some Olives and walnuts.
Okay guys, something happened this trip. I went from olives being legitimately the only food I wouldn’t eat (oysters are up there too) and for now, some reason, I absolutely love them. I mean you won’t see me purchasing a can of black olives any time soon, but the green ones, flavoured with garlic and basil (rumour has it they can also be found stuffed with goat cheese), are so insanely delicious that I have to stop myself from eating the whole darn package! Paired with a walnut to cut the saltiness juuuust a tad, is what really gets me going. I am officially an olive lover. The low carb lifestyle in me just got a whole lot sweeter. Or saltier.
The next morning I woke up with excitement and went for a run. I know exercising isn’t going to be a priority here, because I don’t want it to be. I’m in Italy. My focus is exploring, drinking wine, eating pasta, and just spending time with my best friend. Regardless, you know I love my exercise. During my own 6 month personal transformation I made sure exercise was a priority. Movement is crucial for my mental health, and yes, physical health as well. But that’s not why I do it. Everyone knows exercise releases dopamine and other neurotransmitters responsible for feeling good. I love lifting weights, and more recently swinging kettle bells, but I do love cardio as well. It releases my anxiety. It clears my head. It gives me a chance to work through things in my head, or think of nothing at all.
So I went for a 5 k run. I ran all the way to the water where there were ships and yachts and I think even a few pirates. It was the perfect start to my day. After a quick breakfast (vega protein powder for the win) we took the train to start our Cinque Terre trip.
First of all, while travelling, it is always ideal for me (on my wallet and my body!) to eat out all 3 meals. Plus, ya’ll know I’m a fan of fasting. But after my run, and knowing we wouldn’t be eating lunch for a few hours, a little bit of protein was perfect. To be honest, I wish I brought a ton more! It worked out perfect because I ended up eating one of my favourite meals this day, and am glad I didn’t have a full belly. Everyone’s different. Some people need more food than others, just like sleep. But starting my mornings off light always makes me feel my best, especially when I know I’ll be feasting in the evening.
The train took us to the first little town Monterosso. My first train ride of the trip! We coasted along the Mediterranean Sea and it was just as gorgeous as I would have imagined. The first stop we toured around a little bit, and then found a little wine bar and had some Rose and olives. I was in heaven. I couldn’t stop smiling and probably would have shed some happy tears but I was just too overjoyed even to cry! This was exactly what I pictured when I booked my flights to Italy.
This, was Italy to me. Just want I envisioned. I mean so far Venice, La Spezia, and Florence have been so different from one another, but this brief moment with my Rose, my best friend, and the views of the sea just filled my heart. I sat here in SO much gratitude. Like is this really my life? How am I so lucky to have the privilege to travel the world with my best friend and witness such beauty. Life hack: you can eat perfect, exercise religiously, meditate everyday, but gratitude is truly the key to happiness. No doubt about it. Show gratitude everyday, make it a habit, and watch the miracles happen <3
Alright now that we’ve shared a moment together let’s continue, shall we? We hopped back on the train to reach our next destination-Vernazza. Ugh, okay this was my favourite. I wish we had more time to explore in each town, but we took advantage of the time we had. We originally were going to do Cinque Terre on our next full day, but it was going to be raining. We made a quick decision to do it on this day, and it was more rushed than we would have liked, but at least the sun was shining.
We explored the town a little bit and before we knew it we were hiking. We just kept going up. Looking along the luscious terrain, it reminded be a little bit of Boqeute, Panama, and a little wave of gratitude came over me. Hiking has quickly become one of my favourite activities. Exercise mixed with nature and amazing views? Yes please. Jessica hasn’t done much hiking but thoroughly enjoyed it. She was a trooper and we hiked for a good hour upwards and onwards. It was incredible, and to experience it with my best friend made it even more so. Between my morning run and this hike, my fitbit was congratulating me with all sorts of accompishments! But really, I highly recommend hiking Vernazza if you visit Cinque Terre. Apparently you can even hike between the towns (instead of taking the train) so that will definitely be on my list for my next visit.
When we reached the bottom, we stopped at another cute little wine bar, had a glass of a Cinque Terre dry white-which may have been the best tasting wine I’ve had this trip, and then continued on to Manarola. We unfortunatebly skipped Corniglia, as it was becoming dark and our host Fabio told us this would be the one to skip if we were to choose one. But it was quite alright, because Manarola was where we ate like queens.
At this point we were starving. My vega protein powder wasn’t holding up after my run and hike, and the few glasses of vino we had, had me feeling fluttery. Apparently many places close for dinner, but we lucked out and found a cute little Italian-need I say Italian-restaurant. I love my pasta, pizza, and everything in between. But I saw Mussels on the menu... And thanks to my probiotics I’ve been taking religiously, I only had one thing to do, trust my guts. #holisticnutritionistjokes. Guys, I LOVE seafood. Especially fresh seafood. My preferred flavour is mussels in a curry sauce, but these were made in a delicious butter and marinara sauce, and I ate the whole damn bowl. As mentioned, Jessica is vegan so I did my best not to deliver too “yums” while licking my fingers. We also shared a pesto pizza. Gluten and all. And THIS was actually the best thing I ate. We loaded it up with parmesan and pepper, and ate til our little bellies were happy.
We made a quick stop in Riomaggiore, where we walked around in a maze. Google maps saved us for the 100th time this trip and after climbing at least a thousand stairs and we made it back to our train. Even in the dark this place was beautiful. I would have loved to explore it in the daylight, but hey, that’s what coming back to Italy is for. Overall our trip to Cinque Terre was beyond lovely and I highly recommend visiting this little paradise.
The next day poured canni e gatti (cats & dogs..) and Jess and I were able to get some work done. I absolutely love my job as a psychiatric nurse-there is no doubt about it. But the fact that I can also make an income from my laptop, while sitting in Italy, and knowing I am also making a huge impact, brings me so much joy.
If you aren’t familiar with what I do, I am a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. I work with clients of all ages and help them become the best versions of themselves by using simply one thing: food. Okay, there’s a lot more to that, but mainly I use nutrition to help others heal themselves. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But you would be truly surprised how well you can optimise your health just by changing what you put on your plate. Food is truly medicine. I study holistic nutrition every single day. That is my passion, and I love nothing more than being able to share that with the world.
Speaking of the World, our next stop was Florence <3
Our jaunt to Florence was nothing spectacular. We walked the 5 minutes the train, of course arriving 30 minutes earlier than we needed to, and had a lovely 2 hour train ride through the alps of Italy. We found our air bnb which was conveniently settled in the heart of Florence, perched high into an authentic Italian structure, our hosts name appropriately named ‘Flo.’ Our wifi wasn’t working, which is always a blessing in disguise.
We only had two nights here, meaning we were on a quest to find good food and good wine. As much as I love the longer stays where we can set up our roots, these short stays meant we had to get down to business. Our first meal was nothing special as we stopped at the first place we could find because of our grumbly tummies. I know that there will be Carbonara in my future, any my body is only capable of handling so much glucose. First of all, I 100% love to indulge, and never restrict myself. So when I chose a seafood salad (salmon, tuna, and shrimp over spinach) literally doused in olive oil, balsamic, and a generous portion of parmesan, this was not restricting. If anything I would have also added bacon and avocado, but I never had the chance to learn those words in italian. #ketofail. Regardless, it was delicious.
This is where THB thinking comes into place. Now I am in Italy. I can smell pesto sauce and fresh made pizza everywhere I go. I also didn’t want to spend 2 days indulging in refined carbohydrate heaven with a side of dairyland. Sure a pesto pizza, pasta florentine, or loaf of bread in balsamic would have been delicious, but I know I’d be diving straight into the carbs and enjoy it a lot more with my lipstick and dancing shoes on in the evening. But in my scrunchie, joggers, and fanny pack I was perfectly happy with a light lunch. If you know me, my blog, or my opinions on nutrition this is how I’d typically eat every meal. A little bit of protein, bonus points for seafood and omegas, nutrient dense greens or other non-starchy veggies that keep my hormones happy, and drenched in olive oil to keep my insides nourished and my brain health on point. Did Jessica’s 4 cheese gnocci rev up my dopamine centres? Absolutely. /but I wanted to fuel my body with the macronutrients it prefers. My body can only handle so much glucose, and I’d rather save the sugars for my vino and pasta dinners.
Our fist night was pretty quiet. We wandered the streets a bit. Jessica had been to Florence before but this was new to me. Completely different than the other Italian cities we visited, and I quickly wished we had more time to explore this beautiful city. The smells, the people, the buildings, they were all different. Yes, it was tourist overload and I’m sure more foreigners than locals but it was still nice to be immersed in the Italian culture.
The next day was MY 30TH BIRTHDAY! Okay, no, it wasn’t. That happened in December and it was fantastic, but since this trip was booked as a 30th birthday present to myself, I wanted to properly celebrate it in the one place I wanted to visit. Over the years I have collected stars on my feet. From Las Vegas, to Central America, a few local Canadian Stars, and now an Italian one. They are my travelling starts, and it was absolutely adamant to acquire one on this trip! It was the least painless as well, and after the 45 second process I am extremely happy with the results.
For dinner Jessica and I drank dirty martinis, which I am proud to say was my first ever olive martini. And I finally ate my carbonara. I mean gluten free of course, but rich with flavour. An egg cream base with bacon, parmesan, and extra virgin italian olive oil. It’s gotta be my top favourite birthday dinner’s ever.
That concludes my trip to Italy. It was everything I imagined and I can’t wait to come back to explore, hike, drink wine, and of course, eat more pasta.
Travelling does not mean you need to restrict your diet. You can still enjoy the foods you love without feeling the bloating or even guilt that accompanies “bad food” choices. It truly is about balance, and choosing the foods that work well for your body, and of course leaving a little room to indulge in cultural treats. Because I am in fat burning mode, throwing in some carbohydrates doesn’t throw my metabolism completely off and actually benefits me. I woke up leaner, and had a ton of energy for my morning runs.
Check out my Products Page to grab my 7 Day Keto Slim Down or purchase my Nutritional Consulting Services to start healing your metabolism and begin your weight loss journey. Stay tuned for more THB Travels. Next I head to Granada Spain, home of the Tapas!!