When John and I volunteered at the Punta Tombo penguin colony in Argentina, helping with a penguin census of the largest Magellanic colony in the world, our experiences with the land, penguins, and dedicated scientists inspired our novels, The Tourist Trail and My Last Continent. Now you can join us for a chance to see this spectacular colony firsthand, learn about its incredible history, and find out how to help conservation efforts in this extraordinary part of the world.
You’ll also have the opportunity to see and experience wildlife in ways you never imagined as we travel from Buenos Aires to Punta Tombo to the UNESCO World Heritage site Peninsula Valdes, where penguins, rheas, guanacos, foxes, sea lions, elephant seals, orcas, and many more stunning creatures reside. We’ll have a uniquely intimate experience with nature based at the private estancia Rincon Chico, accompanied all the way by a team of experienced local guides. (Note: While we’ll experience a lot of wildlife, we won’t be “roughing it” — the activity level will be light to moderate, and the accommodations will be lovely!)
While in Laguna Beach recently for a book event (don’t miss the fabulous Laguna Beach Books while you’re in town), we were able to stop in at the glorious vegan restaurant The Stand.
Fitting for a beach town, The Stand Natural Foods is indeed a stand: You order at the same counter where you pick up your food, and there are a few tables, seats, and stools to sit on, but given how crowed it was at 3 p.m. when we stopped in for a very late lunch, it is likely hard to find a seat during peak hours, which speaks to this place’s popularity.
The menu is incredibly extensive, as you’ll see in the photo below, and it’s hard to decide what to order, given the choices, which include everything from burritos to bowls to salads to sandwiches to wraps to soft-serve natural “ice cream.” And everything on the menu is 100% vegan.
We ordered the avocado sandwich on squaw bread, and then proceeded to wait for more than 30 minutes; the service is friendly and welcoming but very slow, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to eat here. (One woman actually fell asleep while waiting for her order.)
Fortunately, there is a basket of books (mostly children’s books) to keep you and your little ones entertained, and the unhurried vibe is part of its charm.
When it finally arrived, the avocado sandwich was worth the wait — fresh avocado on delicious squaw bread (other breads available are whole wheat and rosemary-garlic sourdough), with tomato, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, guacamole, and a lovely lemon herb dressing.
The sandwiches and many other items are served with The Stand’s signature Have’A Chips™ (if you think a tortilla chip is just a tortilla chip, think again); these are thick, crisp, and flavorful.
We hope to be back again to try out more on this incredible menu.
I was delighted to learn that San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood has among its many Italian restaurants and cafes one known for its vegan menu: Civico 1845.
One of the great things about this restaurant is that it brings the vegan menu to your table along with its regular menu and wine list, unlike some restaurants in which you need to ask for the vegan menu (or those in which the vegan menu is such a secret you don’t even know to ask).
Even the wine list noted the vegan options with a (V), which was wonderfully helpful. We began with pinot noir and the oyster mushroom “calamari.”
This appetizer was very good, and would probably be a hit with omnivores as well due to the texture: these mushrooms are lightly fried and chewy, with thin tendrils that melt in your mouth. The arrabbiata sauce was a bit watery and quite bland, unfortunately, but it was otherwise a lovely dish.
For our main courses we sampled the Ravioli Boscailoa, house-made mushroom ravioli with truffle sauce, and the Fettuccine alla Bolognese, house-made fettuccine with slow-cooked seitan ragout.
The Ravioli Boscailoa was our favorite…beautifully cooked ravioli with a wonderful mushroom filling, accompanied by a sauce that managed to be light and rich at the same time. The wild mushrooms gave the whole dish a big burst of flavor.
The fettuccine dish was also good — the seitan and the bolognese sauce had a robust “sausage” flavor (and was topped with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan), but the fettuccine was a bit overcooked and overall this dish wasn’t nearly as inspired.
Overall, this wasn’t the best vegan Italian (sadly, our very favorite, Portobello in Portland, Oregon, is closed), but it would be a wonderful choice for those visiting San Diego with omnivores, as it’s so easy to order off the vegan menu without having to ask a lot of questions or make special requests.
And if you are in San Diego’s Little Italy and looking for a completely plant-based dining experience, try Cafe Gratitude, which has an abundance of options, including wine, beer, and cocktails and a great happy hour.
It was a wonderful opportunity to visit with the sanctuary animals (who loved the additional affection from visitors) and to learn more about how their lives have turned around thanks to those who do the important work of rescue and providing a safe home.
It was a broiling-hot day in Orland, but all of the animals were cool and happy; the barns had misting fans, and staff and volunteers made sure to keep the animals comfortable…such a contrast to their former lives on factory farms. The Orland sanctuary is on 300 acres, with more than 300 rescued farm animals, including pigs, sheep, goats, cows, chickens, turkeys, chickens, and waterfowl.
Because this was a Twilight Tour, one of the topics was bedtime for the animals, most of whom are only able to sleep for the very first time once they arrive at the sanctuary. Due to the horrible conditions at factory farms, animals from pigs to chickens don’t ever get to fall sleep (to lower one’s guard even for a moment means getting trampled or suffocated), which means they live their entire short lives under unbearable stress.
National Shelter Director Susie Coston talked about how the animals’ lives change so much when they arrive at the sanctuary; they can finally sleep in peace, for the first time in their lives, in addition to being able to enjoy other natural behaviors, like snuggling with others and being able to stay with their families. The animals also tend to sleep very deeply; Susie says that the sanctuary staff often receive concerned calls and emails from people watching the Farm Sanctuary Live Cam: the animals sleep so soundly that viewers worry they may be sick or injured. (Visit explore.org to virtually visit the sheep and turkey barns, the pig and cow pastures, the cattle pond, and more. And don’t panic if the animals don’t move for a while! When we visited the pig barns in person, the pigs were so happy and relaxed they didn’t even look up; they enjoyed belly rubs and ear scritches with their eyes closed.)
During our visit we also got a chance to chat with President and Co-Founder Gene Baur, who gave an inspiring talk about reaching out with kindness to educate those who don’t realize how much these animals suffer, and how making compassionate choices leads to a better world for animals, humans, and the planet.