Day 60 & 61 of USA Road Trip – Seattle

We are now back in the U.K. after the best 2 month holiday of our lives, and it’s time for me to do my last blog post of the USA part of the trip! The final city we visited in America was Seattle, a place I’d always wanted to go to and it definitely lived up to my expectations.

The journey from Portland to Seattle was not without drama. Every time we’ve rented a car this year, we have had an emergency alert that the tire pressure is low. To be fair, I’m not surprised that this happened on this trip, as we had been escorting Big Red through some very bumpy country roads… but it still freaks me out when it happens! We had to drive to a few different gas stations until we found one with an air pump. This is probably not impressive to anyone apart from me but we managed to fill up the tires with zero help! Yay adulthood! We had lunch on the road in Quiznos because they do a yummy gluten free bun for only an extra $1! 

When we arrived at our hotel, we were greeted with a lovely load of dodgy weirdness. There was a blazing row going on in the lobby as we were waiting to check in, but that turned out to be the least of our worries. During the essential bed bug check of our first room, we found small blood stains all over the mattress. In the next room, we found an empty prescription drug cylinder, a fake Chanel purse and a mini weighing scale under the mattress. Nice.

Thankfully, downtown Seattle was a billion times nicer than our hotel. On our first afternoon in the city we visited Pikes Place, home of the first ever Starbucks! It’s also home to a bakery called Cinnamon Works that has tonnes of gluten free and vegan options. Ewan and I shared a cookie that had tofu in it and it was weird but not unenjoyable.

We purchased a CityPass for Seattle because it saves a lot of money if you plan to check out a few of the main tourist attractions while you’re there. Our first attraction on the CityPass was the Aquarium, and it was a really good one. We watched the Giant Octopus being fed which was very cool and I sat watching the beautiful sea otters for ages.

We stopped at nearby Anthony’s restaurant for dinner. It was Happy Hour so we got super cheap meals, the Poke Bowl for Ewan and Mussels for me. The fries are cooked in the same oil as gluten containing items so I subbed in mashed potatoes instead as my side. The happy hour portions were very small but tasty (we MAY have had ‘second dinner’ at McDonalds later that evening….).

Realising the time, we speed walked/trotted from dinner to the Space Needle and managed to make it up to the top just before the sun set and got a stunning 360 degree view of the city. A perfect way to end our first night in the city!

The following morning we headed into town and booked ourselves on the first boat cruise of the day. We had 2 hours to kill before the boat departed so we decided to have a wander around Pioneer Square. To my excitement, we came across a coffee shop called Biscuit Bitch that I had heard about through the gluten-free grapevine and I just had to go in for second breakfast. Biscuit Bitch essentially only really sells coffee and multiple variations of ‘biscuits and gravy’ (for UK readers who are currently imagining a custard cream in a bowl of gravy, the ‘biscuits’ are savoury dumplings!) but it is absolutely worth checking out if you’re nearby. I went for the ‘Straight Up Bitch’ and it was honestly the best comfort food ever. Note: Get there early – they only make 15 gluten free biscuits per day!

It was now almost time for our cruise so I rolled my gravy filled body out of Biscuit Bitch and got on the boat. We scored ourselves seats on the outside deck and basked in the sun while taking in some lovely views of the city. We were super lucky as rain was forecast but we didn’t get a drop!

Even after my 2 breakfasts, I was impressively (or grossly) still ready for lunch when we got off the boat. We had a quick salad bowl in Qdoba then headed to our final City Pass ticket locations; Chihuly Gardens and Glass and the Pop Culture Museum. Chihuly was beautiful and we were able to take loads of pretty pictures.

The Pop Culture Museum was really fun and had so much in it, including a games room where you could play unreleased Nintendo games. Ewan and I challenged two guys to a weird game where you were basically long sausage dogs with human heads chasing after a ball… and we won! Woo! The rest of the Museum is filled with authentic props from movies and unseen, original pictures of artists like David Bowie.

To get back into town we took the Monorail which was a cheap, quick and painless way of traveling and also an easy thing to tick off the Seattle bucket list! We stopped for dinner at our trusty favourite P F Chang’s before heading back to the hotel to sleep our final night in USA for this trip! Super sad but I can say now (over a month after returning) that we had the most incredible summer and it was an insanely amazing holiday that I feel very lucky to have experienced ❤

From Seattle, we headed over the Canadian border into Vancouver and spent a beautiful, chilled out 5 days there before flying back to UK. I’ll be doing a post soon of my top tips for eating/sightseeing in Vancouver!

Restaurants · travel

Day 59 of USA Road Trip – Portland 

If any of you have seen the TV show ‘Portlandia’, you’ll probably be aware that Portland is a weird (and wonderful) city. If you haven’t, imagine a place that is full to the brim of independent, original businesses and very quirky people. 

We didn’t arrive in Portland until late in the evening on our first day so decided not to head into town. Instead, we went for dinner at the Indian restaurant adjoining our hotel called Namaste. When I walked in and realized that it was a buffet, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat. It turns out that every item is clearly labeled with all its ingredients and gluten/dairy free options are marked. Everything was yummy and the price was ridiculously cheap, $14 for all you can eat! 

The following morning we got the shuttle into town for a full day of exploring in Portland. The first place we visited was the Chinese Garden in Old Town. The entrance fee is just shy of $10 per person and you get so much for your money. If you go at 10am on Thursdays, you get a free Tai Chi class taught in the main pavilion! We arrived just after they started so we didn’t join in but very much enjoyed watching them. The gardens themselves are stunning and quite big, with lots of cool areas to explore. Each building has a different attraction in it and all of them are free, from calligraphy lessons to fortune telling.

After such a relaxing time in the Chinese Gardens, it was time to get our morning caffeine fix. We went to the famous Voodoo Donuts and while I had high hopes that they might have gluten free options, I was sadly disappointed. However, it is a very cool place to see and their coffee is pretty good. For the non-gluten free visitors, they do some very… different… donut varieties, including one called ‘the cock and ball’. I’ll let you guys guess the shape of that one. 

We spent the next couple of hours wandering around downtown and checking out the shops before stopping for a quick lunch in Freshii. It was weird to be back in a Freshii as that was the place I went to for lunch at least a couple times a week when I worked in Toronto! For anyone who’s never been, they do quite a few gluten free options including my favourite, the Bamboo Bowl. It’s best to check out their nutrition menu online before you go though as I’ve never found the staff to be that knowledgeable about gluten. 

There’s a tourist information right across from Freshii so we popped in and asked this adorable old lady how we should spend the rest of our day. To say she was helpful is an understatement. She gave us a full breakdown of the best things to check out in the city and we had the best time thanks to her advice! 

The first spot on her list of suggestions was the Portlandia Building which has a statue of a woman on the front that’s comparable in size to the Statue of Liberty. It’s actually ridiculously easy to miss because she’s bent down to catch a salmon (naturally) so she looks a lot smaller than I expected. Still, very cool to see! 

We then walked all along the gorgeous waterfront back to Old Town and stopped for an alcoholic refreshment in a beer garden called Floyd’s. Another reason to love Portland – their alcohol is very cheap! 

Portland is home to the largest independent book store in the USA and this place is seriously MASSIVE. I’m talking a store the size of an entire block and 4 stories tall, completely chock full of books. If you’re a book fan like I am, you can get lost in Powell’s Books for hours! 

Right round the corner from Powell’s is the very cool Fat Head Brewery. Now, I am in no way a beer fan but this place really is amazing! They offer a few different gluten free beers along with lots of wines, ciders and cocktails. I tried a Mango cider which I’ll admit I didn’t love but the real winner was their food menu. They can basically make anything you want gluten free and during happy hour all their pizzas are only $8, with zero extra charge to make it gluten free! We couldn’t resist this insane offer so had a cheeky pizza to share with our drinks. Ewan had a beer flight (not gluten free) and of course tried their beer called ‘the Lou’. 

Our last stop of the day was Tilikum Bridge, the newest bridge in the city that only opened in 2015. There’s not as much around it as I had expected but it offers a nice vantage point to see the city. 

We weren’t massively hungry after our pizza but didn’t want to head back to the hotel before having some dinner (I don’t think anyone can face an all you can eat Indian buffet twice in a row) so we popped into Flying Elephant Deli for a bite to eat. Funny story about the Flying Elephant, when I saw the name of this place on the map earlier in the day, I made Ewan walk all the way there thinking it would be a statue of an elephant with wings. It was a bloody Cafe! Flying Elephant Deli does have lots of gluten free options but it really is a cross contamination nightmare. I wouldn’t touch any of the gluten free cakes or breads with a barge pole because they are stored on the same plates as their gluten containing counterparts, but I just about trusted the soups and thankfully didn’t have any issues after eating it. I went for the Tomato Orange and it was yum! 

Overall, I absolutely loved Portland and think it’s a really cool city to spend a day or two. My next blog post will be all about the beautiful city of Seattle! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 56-58 of USA Road Trip – North California and Oregon 

These three days felt like proper ‘road trip’ days. We drove basically all day, stopping off at different cool locations along the route and had a quick sleep at a random motel before getting on the road again. 

Our first day of driving was from Napa Valley to Eureka. We stopped for lunch at Jack in the Box and I wasn’t convinced that I’d be able to eat anything, but thanks to the nutrition menu on the wall I worked out that I was safe eating a grilled chicken salad. I’m the first to admit that I am not a huge salad fan, but this was actually pretty good! Would definitely have it again. 

Our first sightseeing stop of the day was the Drive Thru Tree. It’s only $5 per car to enter the park and on a quiet day like the one we went on, you can drive through it as many times as you like! If the name didn’t explain enough, it’s just a huge tree that has a small, car shaped gap cut into the bottom of it so you can walk or drive through. We are in a tiny Ford Fiesta and managed to hit our wing mirror (no damage, thank God) so good luck if you’re in a big car! 


We drove along Avenue of the Giants, a vast, tree-lined area with gorgeous views, attractions and hiking trails. We saw Chimney Tree (a tree with a hole all the way through) and went on a short hiking trail in Humboldt Redwood National Forest where Ewan bravely crossed a river by walking along a fallen tree. I took the wimps option and went across the manmade bridge.  

Our motel was in a town called Eureka which I stupidly expected to be buzzing because it looked geographically large on google maps. No offence to any Eureka residents (okay, maybe a little bit of offence because YOU MUST MOVE) but the entire town looks like one enormous and slightly dodgy car park. We had a quick dinner at a cute Mexican joint called Rita’s where they were able to make me gluten free vegetable fajitas and then headed back to the hotel room before it got dark out. 

The next day of driving was from Eureka to Coos Bay, Oregon. We made friends with some Germans at breakfast who told us a few good trails to do at Redwood National and State Park, our first location of the day. We did the Fern Canyon trail which was honestly incredible, I felt like I was walking around in Jurassic Park! The Canyon walls were covered all the way up in bright green ferns and small waterfalls drizzled into the water at the bottom of the Canyon, making the atmosphere so relaxing. I had to walk through streams and climb over trees to do the trail, which made me feel very accomplished as I am generally a huge wimp. 

Someone who was less happy about the streams was Sid, our trusty Ford Fiesta (named after Sid the Sloth in the Ice Age films because he goes very slowly when we drive uphill). We had to drive him through a rather deep stream to get to the trailhead and if you’ve ever tried to drive a rental car through deep water you will know how traumatizing this was. Thankfully, we all came out unscathed.

For lunch we went to Palm Cafe which is apparently ‘World Famous’ but I’ve learnt during the trip that this term is used loosely for just about anything. To be honest if you HAVE heard of Palm Cafe in Orick, California, I’ll give you a tenner. The service was really good though and they made me a very yummy ham and cheese omelette, so I’m not complaining. 

Back in Redwood National Park, we did a super short hike to ‘Big Tree’ which is crazy tall and 1500 years old! 

Our favourite sight of the day was Klamath River Outlook. It was such a beautiful viewpoint of the ocean and we sat in the sun watching the whales and sea lions swim around below. Dreamy. 

We had a slightly alternative accommodation booked for the evening at Oceanside RV Park. We were staying in an airstream! It had 2 single beds, a cute sofa, a tin shower and working loo. It was adorable and only a 1 minute walk from a private beach. We borrowed a board game from the front desk and had a really lovely evening in our trailer. 

When it was time for dinner, we drove a couple minutes into Charleston and ate at Millers on the Cove Sports Bar. They have great gluten free options including clam chowder which is hardly ever gluten free so I had to order it and it was really good! I also had the crab tacos and a glass of hot apple cider because it’s now officially autumn and I am a basic bitch. 

After a delightful sleep in our little tin house, we spent the day driving from Coos Bay to Portland. We decided on Pancake Mill in Coos Bay for breakfast. They do loads of gluten free options including pancakes of all sizes, waffles and muffins. I had a vegetable scramble with a side of gluten free dollar pancakes and took a raspberry muffin to go. They do three different kinds of maple syrup too and they are all delicious. One of my favourite breakfasts of the trip. 

Our first attraction of the day was meant to be Sealion Caves but when we got there they explained that there were actually no sea lions there that day as they were all out hunting. They offered us $2 off their usual admission price so we could see the empty cave…. no thanks…. and instead we drove on to Thors Well. Thors Well is essentially a collapsed sea cave that looks like a bottomless sinkhole at high tide. We saw it at mid/low tide, but it was still stunning. 

We drove on to Seal Rock for a walk along the beach (no seals, maybe they were hunting too?) then stopped at McDonalds for lunch. I love McDonalds soooo much but since I found out I have celiac disease, I’ve only been able to eat the fries. I’d heard that you can ask them to make a burger without the bun but have always felt too silly to make that request. However, because it was really quiet in there and the lady behind the counter seemed nice, I went ahead and asked. What a game changer! They server their burger in a lettuce wrap and they taste just like a normal burger! Mega happy. 

Our last stop of the day was the majestic Cannon Beach. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I could have wandered along the beach for hours upon hours. If you ever seen The Goonies, it’s the beach from that movie! We stayed until the sun started to set behind the huge rocks in the sea and then drove on to our hotel in Portland. 

We now have under a week until we land back in UK! Where have the last 2 months gone?! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 54 & 55 of USA Road Trip – Lake Tahoe & Napa Valley

Before leaving San Francisco, we checked what the weather would be like in Lake Tahoe so I knew what to wear for the day. What I saw surprised me to say the least; it was going to reach a high of 10 degrees! All I’ve been wearing for the past 2 months is denim shorts and strappy dresses, so I was in a bit of a panic. We dug deep into Big Red and pulled out a pair of Lululemon leggings that I’d placed there in a well intentioned but laughable attempt to lure me into working out during the trip. Needless to say, they hadn’t been touched since I packed them. I stole a fleecy jumper of Ewan’s to wear with them and was ready to go!  

We didn’t check in to our hotel in South Lake Tahoe until 2.30pm as it was quite a long drive. After dropping Big Red off in the room and brushing up on our knowledge of what to do if a bear attacks, we headed up to the Van Sickle trail. The hike was short but very steep, which thankfully meant that it didn’t take too long to get to a gorgeous look-out. We sat on the rocks and watched the bright blue lake below us for a while. It was beautiful! The chairlift runs all year for $50 per person if you don’t fancy hiking.

On the way back down, we stopped at Heavenly Village to nosy around the cute shops and restaurants. I can imagine that this area is stunning during winter and an amazing place to ski, but as soon as we walked down to the beach and had a little chill out on the sand, I realized that it would be just as gorgeous in summer. The water in the lake was crazy clear and calm. 

We had a very unexciting dinner in Applebees because the BBQ restaurant we’d planned to go to was closed for the season. I had the Bourbon Chicken & Shrimp and I don’t mean to sound like a greedy guts but the portion was so small and therefore depressing! 

The following day we headed to Napa Valley, which was wonderful, boozy and sunny. I’ve done quite a lot of wineries over the past 2 years while living in Canada and the thing that surprised me in Napa was how expensive tastings are. In Canada, I’ve generally only paid $5-10 for tastings at a winery, and that usually gets deducted if you buy a bottle. In Napa, you’re looking at around $30-50 per winery visit! We had made tour reservations at the stunning Domaine Carneros winery in Napa, about a 15 minute Lyft ride from downtown. The building is very pretty and they specialize in sparkling wine. We only got 4 small tastings during the $50 tour but it was very informative and interesting. Did you know that to get the yeast residue (gross) out of every bottle of prosecco/champagne, wineries have to turn each bottle upside down, freeze the neck of it and pull out the ice plug that forms? 

Downtown Napa has some smaller, cheaper wineries and tasting rooms, but they are obviously not set in beautiful vineyards like the out of town ones. We had a few wine flights at different locations in the city and my absolute favourite was JaM Winery. They have a Chardonnay called ‘Butter’ that genuinely smells like melted butter and I was very enamoured with! We also got to try the difference between their Napa region wines and their wines made in other areas of California and it’s safe to say that the Napa ones were SO much better. 

For dinner we went to Mint Mango Thai in Napa downtown. They are great with gluten free requirements and very knowledgeable. I had a yellow chicken curry and it was yummy. 

We stayed at Wine Valley Lodge in Napa which is famous because Marilyn Monroe and Elvis have both stayed there at some point. It was a cute place but all I can say is that they must have stayed there at the VERY beginning of their careers because it wasn’t exactly lavish….. it was perfect for us though and I slept like a log after all that wine! 

Final wine rating: Loved Napa but I think Niagara on the Lake in Ontario is still my favourite place to go wine tasting! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 51-53 of USA Road Trip – San Francisco

 San Francisco has always been on my to-go list and I am so happy that I can now say I’ve been! Ewan’s parents were travelling around California at the same time as us, so we aligned schedules and met them at the Cliff House on Wednesday for lunch. You are supposed to be able to get good views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the area, but the weather was seriously foggy so there was absolutely zero visibility. We were staying in Sausalito (at a gorgeous hotel thanks to Ewan’s parents) which meant that we had to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to get there. This is all we could see from it! 

Because of the foggy weather, we decided to stay over in Sausalito for the afternoon instead of driving back into San Francisco. The hotel offered complimentary bikes so we had fun cycling around the area. 

For dinner, we decided to check out the restaurant attached to the hotel, Frantoio. They offer gluten free pasta and I had the most incredible rabbit ragu dish, I haven’t had pasta as good as that since Frings in Toronto. 

The hotel had an outdoor fire pit so we spent the rest of the evening sitting and enjoying the warmth of the flames while making complimentary s’mores – or marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate for me! Yum. 

The next morning, we enjoyed our hotel hot breakfast (which is seriously a luxury for us now after all of our budget motels) and drove into the city. I hadn’t expected this to be the case, but San Fran is a very drivable place. The traffic was minimal and there are a multitude of free parking spaces all over the city. We were able to see Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, Fishermans Wharf and the beautiful sea lions at Pier 39 all while parking for free nearby! 

When our bellies started to rumble, we drove to the Ferry Terminal as Ewan had heard how pretty the area was. He was right, it was such a gem! There’s a big water feature in the square that you can walk through, and lots of nice little cafes and boutique shops inside the Ferry Terminal itself. 

While exploring all the stalls, I found a 100% gluten free artisan bakery called Mariposa that sold a little of everything. All their offerings looked insane: cherry danishes, bagels, cinnamon buns, avocado on toast… I could go on and on. Eventually I decided on a cheese and ham pocket and it was SO good. It did not have the dryness of normal gluten free pastry at all! 

Chinatown and Union Square are within easy walking distance from the Ferry Terminal, so we checked both of those areas out next. I’ve been to many Chinatowns and I think San Fran’s may be my favourite! Union Square was a cool, buzzing place for shopping and people watching. We took a streetcar from Union Square back to the Ferry Terminal before heading on to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. 

The Palace doesn’t look like much from the road, but this is an absolutely gorgeous place to visit if you’re in the San Francisco area. There are intricate, roman-esque structures and sculptures to see and it’s all free to visit. It’s especially beautiful on a sunny day! Inside the main building are a few exhibits and lots of games to play like table tennis and jenga. We played the bean bag toss like in San Diego and I won, again. I really should start a team when I’m back in the UK. Any takers? No? 

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a vantage point for the Golden Gate Bridge and took lots of great pictures. Ewan’s Mum is a yogi and her yoga group take pictures of themselves doing poses when they go on vacation. I especially enjoyed watching Ewan squirm in embarrassment as his mother did a bridge pose (basically a crab to non-yogis like me) on the ledge with the view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Brilliant. 

Dinner was at my favourite place, The Cheesecake Factory. I went for my old faithful – chicken and roasted garlic gluten free pasta and a slice of Godiva chocolate cheesecake for pudding. It was as delicious as ever but I definitely overate and felt ill and full for the next two days. Note to self: must one day learn to eat in moderation. 

We spent our final day in San Francisco exploring Golden Gate Park, after a brief pit stop at Alamo Square to see the Painted (or really not that painted to be honest) Ladies. 

Golden Gate Park is another place that’s easy to drive to and free to park in, but most of the attractions inside the park come with a fee. For $9 each, we went inside the very pretty but tiny Japanese Tea Gardens for a cup of green tea. Inside the Tea Gardens is a very steep bridge that you just can’t climb over without taking a photo! We had planned to rent bikes in the park but the park isn’t actually very bike accessible, as a lot of the paths prohibit cycling. We walked around instead and moved the car if we needed to go a long distance – much easier! 

We headed back over Golden Gate Bridge for the rest of the afternoon and visited the beautiful Muir Woods. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been spoiled recently by stunning national parks, and while Muir Woods didn’t blow me away, it was still a lovely place to walk around and feel at one with nature. 

For any coeliacs visiting Muir Woods, we stopped at Dipsea Cafe on the way there for a bite and they had a few good gluten free options. I had a salad with a few modifications and it was very tasty. They also have lots of gluten free breakfast items. Also not too far away is Pacific Catch, our dinner venue for our last night with Ewan’s parents in California. They have a great menu for coeliacs and loads of options to suit multiple tastes. After our delicious Poke dinner near The Madonna Inn, I was hungry for more Hawaiian, so I went for a selection of Poke dishes served with seaweed salad and tortilla chips. It wasn’t served like I had expected but it was really flavourful and filling!   

I’d definitely love to come back to San Francisco and fit in all the things we didn’t do this trip, like Alcatraz! We had such a great few days though and I was very sad to leave Ewan’s parents on the last day. However it was weird to say ‘See you in a couple weeks’ to them as we left…. AS IF we have less than 2 weeks until we land back in London! Where the hell has the time gone?! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 49 & 50 of USA Road Trip – The Madonna Inn & Monterey 

Back in the days when I actually had a job, I would procrastinate by googling future places to travel (prospective employers, please ignore the previous sentence). During one Google session, I came across a list entitled, ‘the coolest hotels in the world’. One of these hotels just happened to be in California, and it was called The Madonna Inn. As soon as I saw photos of their insanely pink colour scheme, I knew we had to add it as a stop to the road trip. 

We arrived on a sunny Monday afternoon and were given free neon pink travel coffee flasks upon check in. Our room, Floral Fantasy, was everything I had hoped for. A pink velvet sofa, matching curtains, pink carpet, pink bedding and a gorgeous floral light arrangement around the bathroom mirror. We opened up the (also pink) wardrobe door to find two soft, fluffy, baby pink robes waiting for us. Dreamy.

It was a beautiful day so we headed straight for the infinity pool. We sunbathed with a glass of Madonna Inn’s own champagne in hand, which sadly tasted horrendous. The cocktails were much better though! We had a very relaxing afternoon hopping from pool to jacuzzi until night started to fall. 

For dinner, we skipped the crazy expensive steakhouse at the hotel and instead opted for a local Hawaiian eatery called Poke Chef, about a 5 minute drive from The Madonna Inn. We both had incredible poke bowls and yummy fruit juices. The majority of their options are gluten free so I didn’t feel at all restricted. 

Once back at the hotel, we headed into the main building. They have everything you could want; a wine cellar that offers tastings, a shop that sells popcorn and chocolate for movie nights in the hotel room, a boutique clothes store, a cocktail bar, a spa, horse stables and two different restaurants. Every single area is STUNNING. You mustn’t miss the restrooms! If you have a guy with you, and don’t mind getting dirty looks from other patrons, get them to show you the downstairs toilet. I haven’t seen many urinals in my time, but I’m pretty sure these are the most original ones I’ll ever see! 

After skulking strangely around the men’s restroom, we headed to the cocktail bar for a few drinks. I started with their signature drink, The Pink Cloud. It was basically just vodka, cream and pink sugar blended and tasted like a milkshake! It was a heart attack in a glass so I went for red wine next because red wine is practically a salad, right? 

We had planned to cycle their bike trails early the next morning before check out, but upon finding out that they charge $25 a bike, we slept in instead. Another fun thing about The Madonna Inn is that their in-room toilets are what I would call ‘robo-toilets’ because they have a very fancy remote control panel on them and can do all sorts of random, completely unnecessary things, like providing the equivalent of a hand dryer for your arse. 

Once checked out, we got on our way to Monterey. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Monterey except that it was the filming location for the recent (and absolutely excellent) TV show, Big Little Lies. It turns out that Monterey is one of the most amazing place that we’ve seen in California so far! It’s an absolute must-visit in my opinion. We saw Bixby Bridge, explored Big Sur, drove the 17 mile scenic route and took in so many stunning views. We need to come back because there’s loads we didn’t have time to see, and I already can’t wait to visit again! 

Monterey has a Fisherman’s Wharf, and while it isn’t a patch on San Fran’s area of the same name, it’s a very cute place to have dinner. Basically every restaurant is seafood which suited me very nicely! We checked out all the menu’s and eventually decided on Albonetti because it was one of the only places that labeled their gluten free options. We got seated with a view of the water and were able to watch sea lions swimming around as we ate our dinner. I went for the Monterey Calamari dish and while a little heavy on the garlic, it was still very good.  

Add Monterey to your travel list, its beautiful! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 46-48 of USA Road Trip – LA & Santa Barbara 

Okay, so LA is both amazing and a bloody nightmare rolled into one. We definitely want to come back, as we only really scratched the surface of what this city has to offer, but ONLY when they finish the metro extension that they are currently working on. I feel like we spent most of our visit in LA in traffic and I honestly feel for anyone who lives there because it must be such a pain in the ass to get anywhere! 

For starters, our drive there was supposed to take a couple of hours and we were going to arrive around 3pm and head out to explore. Cue horrendous traffic and we finally pull up to the hotel in Hollywood around 6pm, exhausted and hungry. We dumped our bags and popped into a random Thai cafe next to our hotel for a quick bite to eat before getting the metro to see the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre. It was busy, buzzy and fun and it was cool to see the celebrity handprints on the floor. Those 2 sightseeing spots are easily accessible via metro, but that’s kind of where the metros usefulness for tourists (and probably locals too which is why everyone has to drive everywhere) goes dry. 

We wanted to see the LACMA at night as they have an art installation outside called ‘Urban Light’, which is essentially just lots of ornate street lights grouped together. To get anywhere near the LACMA, we had to take a 45 minute bus. We felt a little uneasy walking from the bus stop to the LACMA too, because nobody seems to walk in this city so the streets are dark, dingy and empty. However, we got there and it was very pretty! We took some nice pics before getting on another 45 minute bus back to the nearest metro station and heading to the hotel for a well needed sleep. 

The following morning, a Saturday, we wanted to spend the day at Venice Beach. We considered driving but were told by the hotel staff that this was a very bad idea due to traffic/parking. Instead, we spent an hour and a half on 2 different buses to get there. If you’re tired of hearing about buses in this blog post, imagine how it felt to bloody be sitting on one all this time! Thankfully, Venice Beach was very nice and gorgeously sunny. We checked out the original Muscle Beach and walked along the front with an ice cream. 

You can easily walk all the way along the beach from Venice to Santa Monica, which is what we decided to do. It’s a lovely walk and there’s lots of cafes dotted around for drink stops. We stopped in Perry’s Cafe for lunch. They don’t advertise their gluten free options but they offer gluten free bread and can make almost all of their meals gluten free upon request. I went for a California Beach Bowl because I felt it was very fitting for our current location. It was yummy!! Californians love avocado and I’m totally on board with that obsession. 

We eventually came to Santa Monica pier, which has everything from a mini theme park to an aquarium! The view from the pier was beautiful and we came across this group of pigeons on a day out. 

Once back in downtown LA (after an hour long metro ride, of course), we got the DASH bus to Griffith Observatory. Note: do not drive or uber to the observatory. The queue to get in was crazy, and the DASH bus only costs 50 cents and bypasses all the traffic! The observatory is an amazing place to visit, there’s stunning views everywhere and lots of interesting stuff going on inside the building too. There’s tones of hiking trails to choose from and we went for a short one that took us to a viewpoint of the Hollywood Sign. LOVED it. One of the highlights of the whole road trip for me. 

Because we might have actually burned some calories during the hike, we obviously had to go for an enormous dinner. We chose Umami Burger for the location of this feast. Umami Burger is a very cool burger chain that caters to basically everyone, specializing in the ‘impossible burger’, a 100% vegan patty that apparently tastes just like real meat. I didn’t go for the vegan option (shocker) and instead opted for the Cali Burger, lettuce wrapped, with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. YUM. 

We spent the rest of evening chilling in the hotel at my request, I couldn’t stand the thought of spending any more time that day sitting on public transport. That sounds super boring in hindsight but I was so over it! I’ll have to make up for it next time I’m in LA! 

The next morning, we got on the road to the Getty Villa on the outskirts of Malibu. The Getty Villa was the brainchild of Paul Getty, a very rich business man who wanted somewhere to showcase his art collection. The whole place is designed to be a replica of a villa in Italy that was buried by lava when Mount Vesuvius erupted and it is indeed stunning, inside and out. It’s free to visit ($15 to park though) but you won’t get in without a reservation. You can make reservations online up to 2 months in advance of your desired date. 

We drove along the beautiful Californian coast until we got to our Santa Barbara hotel. It was a little cloudy but still warm, so we walked all the way along the beach and Ewan skimmed lots of stones (7 was his best ‘skim’ of the day). During this walk, we kept seeing little, clear bodied things jumping in the sand. Intrigued but not worried, we continued to walk barefoot along the beach until we got to the town. 

Downtown Santa Barbara is actually very good for shopping and is full of buzzy cocktail bars and coffee shops. We had coffee on a patio at one place then walked along for some wine on a balcony overlooking State Street at another. Gorge. 

It was soon time for dinner, so we headed to PizzaRev. Brathaus also deserves a special gluten free mention as they do gluten free schnitzel and hotdogs, but we ultimately went for pizza because pizza > everything. I was treated so well as a coeliac in PizzaRev that I felt like Queen Gluten Free of Santa Barbara. He cleaned the whole pizza oven even though my pizza was going to be placed on a brand new pizza pan to cook, put on fresh gloves, explained everything to me during the process and got another staff member to open the fridge door for him so that he didn’t have to touch it, thus avoiding any kind of cross contamination. You also get free unlimited toppings on their pizzas which you just can’t go wrong with. If you want all the cheeses they do (which I obviously did), you can have all the cheeses! Gluten free heaven exists, guys. 

Remember I was talking about those hopping creatures in the sand? Well, when we got back to the hotel I noticed lots of tiny bites on my feet. I googled the little buggers it turns out that they are SAND FLEAS. Is nowhere safe?! Thankfully, sand fleas aren’t actually fleas, they are very small crustaceans so I’m not carrying them around with me or anything. Still – GROSS. Hope I haven’t ruined beaches for you forever. Ps. Check out Ewan’s shoe tan below! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 43-45 of USA Road Trip – San Diego 

If you’ve never been to San Diego before, GO TO SAN DIEGO. This was my third time there and it just gets better every time. Ewan and I (mainly I) fantasized about buying a holiday home here… which is another level of laughable seeing as we are currently both technically homeless and very much unemployed. However, if you’re reading this and want to get us a nice Christmas gift, we will take a place near Mission Beach. Thanks in advance. 

Back to reality, once we’d checked in to our hotel we walked to the nearby Trolley Station to buy a 3 day pass for $12. San Diego has a very accessible trolley/bus system that covers the whole city, so it’s a very cost effective and simple way to get around. We headed first to Old Town for a wander amongst the cute, historically decorated shops and museums, most of which are free to visit. There’s a really cool candle shop where you can dip and decorate your own candle for as little as $2, which I have done before and loved, and a donkey farm! 

We hopped back on the Trolley to Sante Fe Depot and walked along the Harbour, coming across a public pier. We walked to the end of it and there were seats set out for people to sit and plane watch on – Ewan’s dream! They also had free wifi – my dream!

Evening started to close in and it got a little chilly, so I dragged Ewan, screaming and crying, towards our next destination. We were headed to Seaport Village for dinner, but on the way we saw lots of gorgeous memorials scattered along the Harbourfront. My two favourites were Homecoming and the Bob Hope Memorial. 

Seaport Village has lots of gluten free restaurant options, including a couple fancy places along the water and a Cheesecake Factory. We opted for Mexican at Puesto and we were not disappointed. It happened to be Taco Tuesday, which meant that all their tacos were half price at only $2.50 each! Bargain. They mark their gluten free options on the menu and if you tell your server about your allergies, they will do everything they can to prevent cross contamination. I went for 3 tacos and a wine flight to wash it down. YUM. 

The waitress asked if we would like to see the dessert menu and I obliged, but only so I could take a look at it ‘for the blog’. This was a rookie mistake; I saw the words Dark Chocolate Torte and couldn’t resist. 

After dinner we headed up to the Top of the Hyatt for a drink and to take in the view before getting the Trolley back to the hotel. Side note: I’d put zero effort into my appearance on this day and before we walked into the restaurant, I’d asked Ewan if I looked decent enough as it was quite a nice place. He did the standard man response of ‘you look lovely darling’ without really looking at me. The second we had finished dinner and were walking out the restaurant, he turned to me, laughed, and said, “your hair looks like Mick Hucknall’s”. Great. 

The next morning, we got the bus to Balboa park. There’s so much to do in Balboa park depending on what interests you – beautiful gardens, art galleries, museums and a big outdoor theatre. We did a bit of it all! The area around the botanical gardens is definitely worth a visit. 

Next, we headed to Coronado Island for lunch and an afternoon at the beach. We ate in Claytons Diner, an adorable little cafe with red booths and duke boxes – very ‘Grease’! They know their stuff about gluten allergies, and although they do make their own gluten free cakes, they are made in the same area as normal cakes so they aren’t suitable for ceoliacs. 

With full bellies, we walked down to the Coronado Hotel and chilled out on the beach for a bit. Ewan isn’t a lover of just sitting on the beach doing nothing, so thankfully we found some games to play to keep him entertained! (Unnecessary info but I would like to get it in writing – I beat him at both games). 

Once we were done with the beach, we sat in the sun on the Coronado Hotel outdoor deck, drinking very overpriced but delicious Mai Tai’s.

We spent the evening in the Gaslamp Quarter, shopping in the Westfield Mall and having an early dinner in Thai Mint. They were great with my gluten free requirements and I had a delicious Green Thai Curry, but Ewan’s Massaman was waaaay better and I had serious food envy! 

We had planned a beach day for our last full day in San Diego but it was cloudy until about 11am, which was actually great because we had a lazy morning and a lie in for the first time in what feels like forever! When the sun was finally shining, we drove to La Jolla (free 2-3 hour parking if you can find a space) to visit the sea lions and seals! They are very smelly and noisy but fun to watch. People get in the water and swim beside them but we were too wimpy to join in. The whole area is very pretty but gets very busy with tourists, so it’s a good place to explore but not such a great place to sunbathe. 

We stopped for lunch on the gorgeous ocean view deck at George’s. Weirdly, they clearly mark their gluten/dairy/nut free items on their online menu, but not on the menus in the restaurant. Not to worry though, because the staff know their stuff and will let you know what you can eat. I had some insanely good yellowtail tacos, and loved eating them with a view of La Jolla Cove below us. 

The weather was amazing so we jumped back in the car and drove to Mission Beach, my favourite part of San Diego with its soft, sandy beach and buzzing cocktail bars. Parking is free and can be a bit of a nightmare, but we were very lucky and grabbed a 4-hour space right on the beach! We sunbathed for ages, walked along the pier and people watched at a beach bar. I wish we were in San Diego longer as I could have spent a couple weeks like that!  

That evening we had another quick sunbathe, this time by the hotel pool, and went shopping at Fashion Valley Mall. We grabbed dinner at the always-amazing P.F.Chang’s and I greedily popped into the Cheesecake Factory afterwards to take a slice of gluten free coffee cheesecake to go! It was yummy but I saved half of it for breakfast the next day, and insanely it turns out that cheesecake isn’t a great breakfast food (who knew?!) because I felt gross for hours afterwards! In hindsight, it was still worth it. 

We are in LA now which we are both loving and hating. I’ll fill you all in tomorrow! Only 3 weeks until we land back in the UK, arghhhhh! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 42 of USA Road Trip – Palm Springs 

I am so in love with Palm Springs that I have been googling flight prices from London, desperate to book my next trip back. We only stayed one night but it was the most relaxing 24 hours of our trip so far. 

It was a rather long 4 hour drive from Vegas, made longer because California drivers are insane. Everyone drives like they have someone giving birth in their back seat and they are rushing to the hospital! We stopped halfway to swap drivers at Barstow McDonalds, which is set inside an old train station and you eat your meal inside a carriage. Very cool. 

From the moment we arrived in Palm Springs and drove along the gorgeous, palm-tree lined roads, surrounded by mountains, I knew I was going to love it. We checked in to our cute little hotel and went straight to the pool and stayed there until the sun disappeared behind the mountain. It was 105 degrees! 

For dinner, we drove into town and ate at Lulu’s California Kitchen. They have a great gluten free menu with pizzas, pastas, salads and more! I felt like I was in dire need of vegetables (and apparently craving mushrooms) after Vegas, so went for the Wild Mushroom Soup to start and the Portobello Mushroom Tower for my main. I washed all my fungi down with a pomegranate juice cocktail and was in food heaven! 

We wandered around the town for a bit after dinner and there were so many lovely restaurants and bars, including one that served unlimited champagne for $7 between 3-7pm weekdays. Yet another reason why I need to come back! 

We had to do laundry last night before our 3 days in San Diego, so while that was happening we went for a nighttime jacuzzi and swim. It was still 100 degrees, so there were people laying out on the sun loungers even in the dark! So relaxing. 

This morning, breakfast was served poolside. This is the first hotel we’ve stayed at where they actually offer gluten free food and I don’t have to bring my own cereal down to eat! God bless California and their gluten free health fads. After breakfast, we sunbathed and swam poolside until we had to check out. Currently writing this while in the car on the way to our next stop, one of my favourite cities, San Diego! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 39 to 41 of USA Road Trip – Grand Canyon & Las Vegas

On Friday, we headed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to spend the day. Sadly, as we were arriving it started to piss down with torrential rain. At the first stop, Desert Tower, the visibility was terrible and it was freezing! We decided to drive on to the visitor centre and come back to Desert Tower later in the day.

Thankfully the weather cheered up by the time we had parked. We hadn’t been as organized as usual and had forgotten to make a packed lunch, so we headed into the cafe to grab something. I paid almost $20 for a tiny, plastic-wrapped, gluten free sandwich and a coffee… but at least they had a gluten free option!  

We were feeling pretty spritely so decided to walk the rim all the way to the start of the Red Line bus route. The whole thing took us about an hour and a half, but the weather was gorgeous and the views were incredible! I had a very well earned ice cream (they do gluten free cones!) in The Village before we hopped on the Red Line. 

At the South Rim, they offer free bus shuttles for visitors that operate on three different routes. The Red Line is the only one we used because it covers an area that you aren’t allowed to access in your own car. We took the bus all the way to Hermits Rest and snapped lots of pictures along the way. 

By now, it was nearing the end of the day, so we hopped back in the car to Desert Tower and managed to get a clear picture of the view we were unable to see earlier. Beautiful! 

We stayed overnight at the Super 8 in Flagstaff, which we were mega impressed with because they gave us a bag of assorted welcome snacks (basically, we will like you if you give us food). For dinner we headed to The Village Inn right next door. The Village Inn offer a very small but adequate gluten free menu and are very good at restricting the risk of cross contamination. They didn’t even bring Ewan’s pancakes out on the same serving tray as my meal, just in case they touched my food! I went for the Ultimate Skillet and it was tasty. 

Saturday morning and it was time for us to head to Vegas! I’d never been before so I was super excited. We were staying at the Stratosphere as it’s the only place we could find that offered free parking. I won’t bore you with the full Tripadvisor review but the short version is DON’T STAY THERE because it’s smelly and it’s gross. It made most of our dodgy roadside motels look luxury! No bed bugs though, thank Christ. 

On the way to Vegas we had our first In N Out! I’d been waiting to get to the west coast to try it because I’d heard they do good gluten free options, and I was not disappointed! I got a double-double (simply double patties and double cheese) ‘protein style’, which means it’s wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. It was incredibly messy but delish! I also enjoyed the fries. We will definitely be back during the California part of the road trip! 

Once in Vegas, we waited in the 30 minute line to check in (that I was fuming about but it turns out this is standard in all the hotels, even the crazy expensive ones) and dropped our bags in our grim room. There’s a very good bus called the Deuce that goes up and down the strip 24 hours a day, so we purchased a day pass and went out exploring. 

While we were checking out the shops in Caesars Palace, we came across an area with an aquarium and a dragon statue blowing fire, which as we are both 5 years old mentally, we were drawn to. Behind it was a Cheesecake Factory. I am a HUGE fan of the Cheesecake Factory and am quite frankly livid that we have a sodding Bubba Gump in London but no Cheesecake Factory! Madness. The queue looked ridiculous but we were only waiting about 10 minutes before we were seated. I had the insanely good chicken and roasted garlic dish with gluten free pasta and it was absolutely amazing. I could eat it a million times over! I had planned to treat myself to a slice of their gluten free Godiva Cheesecake for pudding but sadly I had stuffed myself to the brim with peach bellinis and creamy pasta that there was no room left 😦 

We spent a few hours exploring more of the crazy hotels and watched the fountains at the Bellagio while soaking up the atmosphere. We were pooped by the time we headed home for bed!

On Sunday morning we got up bright and early and tucked into a big Denny’s breakfast before hopping on the bus down to the Welcome to Vegas sign. Top top: don’t bother with the huge queue, stand slightly to the side of the sign and take your photos. They come out just as good and you don’t have to stand out in the 100 degree heat for 30 minutes!

We spent the first half of the day literally just working our way around every single hotel on the strip, stopping for a drink now and again. Our top favourites were the Luxor, Paris and the Venetian – I’d love to stay in one of them the next time I come to Vegas. 

We had lunch at Yolo’s Mexican Grill inside Planet Hollywood, which was nice but you have to be very careful if you’re a coeliac. When I first explained my dietary requirements, I was told I could eat basically anything that’s served on a corn tortilla. Thankfully, I questioned if the pork was also gluten free before ordering, and it turned out that I could only eat pulled chicken or beef, and all the other meats were off limits. I played it safe with a pulled chicken salad, which even they thought was odd because they served the chicken on the side! It tasted pretty good though. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Stratosphere pool, where we indulged in the 2 for 1 cocktail happy hour and topped up our tans. Who am I kidding? I just topped up my blame-my-mum-she’s-ginger pale skin with a couple more freckles. 

We grabbed a quick dinner at Roxy’s Diner inside the hotel before getting ready for the evening, where I had the gluten free pancakes with bacon.  Nom.

If you’re staying at the Stratosphere, you get to go up to the top of the tower for a discounted price of $5. The view is nice, but the main highlight is watching idiots ride the 3 horrible thrill rides. One of them is a roller coaster style train that hangs off the side of the tower and looks completely unsafe. It actually makes the whole observation deck shake when it goes over the edge, so god knows how scary it is to ride! There’s also a drop ride and a spinning ride that again hangs off the side of the tower. 

My friend Dilys who I worked with in Toronto now goes to uni in Vegas, so we met her up the tower for a cocktail. She gave us a gift of Royce Nama Chocolate from the Venetian and it was AMAZING. It’s chocolate made with loads of double cream, so it has to be refrigerated and only has a short shelf life. She gave us both the Champagne and Macca flavours but it was the Macca (green tea) that stole my heart. We didn’t have a fridge so I had to eat it that night or it would go off. Don’t worry guys, I was up for the challenge. 

I was so sad that Britney wasn’t doing a show on the nights we were there as I would have loved to see her, but overall I really liked Las Vegas and will definitely return – but when I have more money to burn!