Category: On travel

Vegan dining in Melbourne: Smith & Deli

By Midge Raymond,

Most plant-based people know of the fantastic Smith & Daughters restaurant in Melbourne’s Fitzroy neighborhood, but not to be missed is its takeaway counterpart, Smith & Deli, which is a couple of blocks around the corner.

It’s a sweet little storefront deli and grocery, offering not just amazing breakfasts, sandwiches, and sweets but an abundance of vegan grocery items, from candy and cookies to ice cream and cheeses.

The deli and supermarket also sells T-shirts, buttons, pins, aprons, and more with its logo and other vegan-friendly messages.

It was hard to choose what to order, but we were thrilled with our choices: the “chicken” salad sandwich on sourdough was huge and incredibly tasty.

The rueben also received high praise from its consumer. The one consideration with Smith & Deli is having a spot to enjoy your takeaway; we were fortunate to have avoided the rain and enjoyed our lunch in a nearby park.

We can’t recommend this place enough for a terrific lunch or takeaway, as well as for stocking up on all your vegan essentials. (Also be sure to find Fitzroy’s Cruelty Free Shop, where you can do even more extensive shopping.)

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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Vegan dining in Hobart, Tasmania: Veg Bar

By Midge Raymond,

We loved everything about Tasmania, including the beautiful city of Hobart, which for a small city of about a quarter million people, has amazing vegan offerings, including Veg Bar.

This clean, austere, inviting place is all plant-based. You order at the bar and help yourself to water at the water station.

The menu is extensive and includes vegan comfort food (like burgers, loaded fries, and an amazing assortment of sweets, including doughnuts), as well as healthier items like bowls and smoothies.

Not pictured is their cocktail menu and beer and wine list, which include inspiring cocktails and jugs of sangria and mojitos.

We had, of course, a big plate of fries, and with the garlic aioli they were especially awesome.

We also had the Classic Burger, which is a veggie patty on a yummy beetroot bun, with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese sauce, and spicy sriracha aioli.

It was clearly a “comfort food” day … instead of choosing a healthy bowl like the Gym Junkie (with broccoli, kale, sweet potato, avocado, roasted chickpeas, and brown rice), we went for the Mexicali Bowl, which also had healthy brown rice, chilli black beans, lettuce, and corn salsa — along with avocado crème, corn chips, and spicy chipotle mayo. It was divine.

We did not, unfortunately, save much room for sweets, but as you can see in the photo below, we should have (and you’d be wise to when you visit). I did manage to eat one doughnut hole, and it was so delicious that the next time I find myself in Hobart at Veg Bar, I will eat dessert first.

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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Early Penguins & Patagonia discount ends January 31!

By Midge Raymond,

Thanks to the Ashland Daily Tidings for this article about  My Last Continent, The Tourist Trail, and our upcoming adventure to Argentina!

We are so excited to be teaming up with Adventures by the Book for a journey through the majestic land of Patagonia and immerse yourself in the setting that helped inspire My Last Continent and The Tourist Trail.

Reserve your spot before January 31, 2018, for a $300 discount — reservations are limited as this will be an intimate, exclusive tour.

The backstory: 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. We can’t wait to take readers and adventurers 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!)

And if you’re up for a further adventure into the icy places of My Last Continent and The Tourist Trail, there is an optional add-on excursion to Antarctica!

This literary & wildlife adventure includes…

  • Welcome dinner & tour in arrival city Buenos Aires
  • Penguin & wildlife excursions, including whale watching, with local guides
  • Signed copies of My Last Continent and The Tourist Trail 
  • …and so, so, so much more!

Learn more here, and feel free to contact us or Susan McBeth ( with any questions you have.

Vegan dining in Melbourne: Matcha Mylkbar

By Midge Raymond,

In the Melbourne neighborhood of St. Kilda, we were delighted to find the all-vegan Matcha Mylkbar.



This eclectic cafe has an ever-changing menu and is open for breakfast and lunch (and it also has a gorgeous display of vegan sweets).

We arrived mid-afternoon but decided to eat breakfast. We decided on the Big Breakfast, which is with two poached vegan eggs, two slices sourdough toast, konjac bacon, potato and leek rosti, truffle-roasted mushrooms, wilted kale, and green tomato relish. It was gigantic, and very delicious.

Even better was the Hollandaise Eggs, two poached vegan eggs with turmeric hollandaise, kale, and avocado on sourdough toast.

As you can see, even the food has a matcha-infused green tint, and it works. The “eggs” were among the most inventive vegan item we’ve ever tried, surpassing every other egg substitute we’ve sampled. For one, they’re poached not scrambled; also, they have a truly eggy texture, and a slightly eggy flavor. It was fun, after so many years of going eggless, to enjoy breakfast with “egg” dishes.

And if you’re in St. Kilda, don’t forget to take a walk along the pier, where at dusk you might catch a glimpse of the Little Blue penguins coming in for the evening…it’s one of the rare opportunities to see penguins in the city.

You can learn more here; this viewing spot has volunteer guides, and the penguins have been studied since 1986. A fence has been installed due to visitors disturbing the penguins (even going as far as to pick them up). Here’s hoping this (and the abundant signage) helps visitors remember that these birds are wild animals and we are visiting their home.

To help protect the St. Kilda penguins by donating, click here.

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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It’s Penguin Awareness Day!

By Midge Raymond,

January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day, and it’s more important than ever that we celebrate (and work to protect) these amazing animals.

If you’ve read My Last Continent, you’ve met the Adélie, gentoo, chinstrap, emperor, and Magellanic penguins. If you’ve read The Tourist Trail, you got to know Magellanic penguins very well. Last November, John and I were delighted to meet a new species: the Tawaki, or Fiordland-crested penguin. (Tawaki is the Māori name, meaning crested; these birds are found only on the South Island of New Zealand.)

The amazing Tawaki live in the rainforest, nesting under tree roots and bushes. They hike from the ocean across sandy beaches, over sharp rocks, and up steep banks to get to their nests. Sadly, there are only about 3,000 of these incredible penguins left on earth.

The Tawaki are endangered due to several factors, including predators on the island (non-native species such as stoats, possums, rats, and feral cats), climate change, and human disturbance (from tourists to the fishing industry). Tawaki are very shy, and it’s rare to see them — and when you do, you have to be very careful to keep your distance; if they come back to shore to feed their chicks and a human is near their path to the nest, they will get frightened and return to the ocean, leaving their chick to go hungry.

How can you help penguins like the Tawaki stay with us forever?

  • Consider giving up seafood; even cutting back will help. You’ll save more fish for the birds, and you’ll help insure that penguins and other creatures don’t get killed by fishing nets and longlines.
  • Be a respectful birdwatcher. Visit penguins with guides who know how to keep a safe distance, or learn about their habitat so that you can be sure to stay out of harm’s way.
  • Do all that you can to combat climate change (see the Climate Reality Project and Cowspiracy for some good tips).
  • Support conservation efforts like the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, which monitors penguins and works on the ground to ensure protections for them.

And keep learning! The more you know of these majestic creatures, the more inspired you’ll be to help save them. Join me in Patagonia in October to meet Magellanic penguins up close and personal at the largest colony in the world. This journey will be a small group of travelers who will meet with local researchers to learn more about their work with this colony, and with any luck, we’ll get to meet Turbo the Penguin as well (the inspiration for the Admiral Byrd character in My Last Continent). Learn more here.

Happy Penguin Awareness Day! (And thanks to John Yunker for these wonderful photographs.)