City Escape: A Yoga Retreat in Peru

During my numerous vacations and road trips in Peru, I have had the chance to explore the country’s most famous destinations, as well as some of its hidden gems. This has only deepened my love and understanding of the country’s historical, cultural, and natural wonders. Peru has many different climates that offer a perfect escape from busy city life: the lush green Amazon, white sandy beaches along the Pacific coast, the Sacred Valley in the Andes mountains, and so much more.

When I packed my bags and decided to move to Peru, live in Lima, and get married to my Peruvian husband, I struggled to find a yoga studio where I could maintain my daily practice. In 2012, yoga was not very popular in Peru’s capital city (Lima); most people had no idea what it was. Over the years, this has changed and today, there is an growing yoga community, with numerous yoga studios, yoga fan-pages on Facebook, and many opportunities to go on a yoga retreat.

Also as part of my travels and experiences, I completed my RYT200h Hatha teacher training in the Sacred Valley. Ever since, I have wanted nothing more than to share and combine my two passions: yoga and travelling.

The idea to start hosting yoga retreats came about when I travelled for the first time to the north of Peru to visit my husband’s family. The family villa just seemed like a perfect place: a white house with a pool, located on the top of a hill, with ocean views and sounds, and a white sandy beach.

This year, the opportunity came up: two of my favorite yoga teachers were organising a retreat and hadn’t found a place to host it. I was very happy, excited, and a little nervous: I wanted everything to be perfect for my yogi guests, and I wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and relax.

None of the guests had any specific dietary requirements, but I planned a vegetarian menu, with some fish options. During our 4-day retreat, the menu included a variety of homemade almond and coconut milks, flavored water, smoothies, iced tea, hummus and guacamole, fresh salads, an abundance of fruits and homemade desserts.

The retreat included yoga twice a day, enjoying the sun and the beach, snorkelling with turtles. We were a group of 12 women and the feminine energy and connections offered us beautiful moments. It was the perfect opportunity to disconnect from the craziness of everyday life in the city and reconnect with one’s inner self.

Maple-Almond-Coco Granola

It’s funny because people seem to think that making your own granola is much more complicated than it actually is.

However, it is healthier than any store bought granola and you can add in whatever you like!

So here is an easy granola you can make at home:

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven at 350F/176C.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
  3. Melt the coconut oil and then mix in the maple syrup an almond extract.
  4. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and combine well.
  5. Place the granola on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Cook for 5 minutes, then mix the granola and cook it for another 5 minutes.
  7. Remove and let cool.
  8. Enjoy with your favourite fruits, yogurt, milk, pancakes, etc!

Top 3 things to do in/around Curitiba

First time to Brasil, and I was SO excited once the visa was approved! I had no idea where I was going and because my hubby had already been, I did NO planning. Not even for what type of clothes to bring. And so we were off on a jet plane… to Curitiba, our first destination in the south of Brasil, in the state of Parana.

We toured around the whole city and so I chose to share my favourite things:

  • The Botanical Garden: If you are in Curitiba, this place is a must! It is great to take pictures, visit the greenhouse and smaller gardens, have a snack or just take in some sun.

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  • Historical Center: Enjoy the historical buildings, cafés, restaurants, bars and more as you walk around Curitiba’s historical center. On Sundays, there is a market you can walk around and shop in.

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  • Oscar Niemeyer Museum: Anyone who even slightly enjoys architecture and design should visit this museum! Oscar Niemeyer was an important Brazilian architect who designed many buildings in Brasilia and overseas. The building itself is different and impressive inside and out.

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Ilha do Mel

Translated into English, this island is known as honey island. It is a little hidden paradise where the ecosystems are flourishing and where you can let nature takes over your senses.

You can get to the port by car or by bus from Curitiba. It takes approximately 2 hours. From the port, you take a short boat ride to the island.

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One thing I regret is not spending one (or more!) nights on the island. There are many rustic lodges and cute places (known in Portuguese as pousadas) where you can rent a room right by the beach. The calmness of the island, people walking or bicycling give it a very laid back vibe. The views are stunning, the white sandy beaches, the surfing, the fortress, the amazing fried fish all make it a little place you won’t want to leave.

I definitely recommend you take a trip to Ilha do Mel if you are in the Curitiba area!

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Vegan Chocolate Cake

As a kid, when I would bake with my mom, she would always tell me: “Take out all the ingredients before you start baking. That way you know if there is anything missing and you can go buy it”.

Well… even if I always hear her telling me this… I don’t have enough counter space. So I usually do the dry ingredients first and then the wet ingredients.

This time, I was missing most of the ingredients for my recipe. I definitely did not feel like going to the store, and so I started using the alternatives I already knew.

I am really happy with the turnout of this vegan, gluten-free cake. The texture came out great and the taste was heavenly ehehe. Just a warning: it is pretty filling because of the quinoa, flaxseeds and avocado!

So here it is for you to make as well!

Recipe modified from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:  http://www.melskitchencafe.com/decadent-chocolate-cake/

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed
  • 12 tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup avocado, puree
  • 1 1/4 cups panela (raw, unprocessed sugar)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Chocolate, passion fruit and mango jam (bought at the Choco Museo in Peru)
  • Chopped almonds (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cook the quinoa in water and let it cool. 1/2 cup dried quinoa will make about 2 cups cooked. Make a little extra just in case.
  2. Preheat the oven at 350F or 176C. Lightly grease two round cake pans (I used coconut oil for this).
  3. In a measuring cup, combine the flaxseeds and water together. Mix well.
  4. Using a blender or food processor, combine the milk, flaxseeds, and vanilla. Then add the cooked quinoa and avocado and blend until the mixture is smooth (and it will be slightly green!).
  5. In a large bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Pour the mixture from then blender into the large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the cake pans.
  8. Cook for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out smooth.
  9. Remove the cake from the over and after about 20 minutes, take it out of the pans and let it cool completely.
  10. Cover with chocolate, passion fruit, and mango jam and with chopped almonds if desired.
  11. Enjoy!

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Green Goddess Quinoa Bowl

I have been mainly posting  sweets and breakfast recipes on here… So today, I decided to change that trend.

I know there has been a whole thrill with the healthy bowls… I haven’t made many, but let’s face it, they are not only delicious… but oh so pretty! ahah.

Sometimes, you can just grab whatever is at hand and create something beautifully delicious, like this “Green Goddess Quinoa Bowl” for instance. Oh and its a hot bowl and I love it!

Here is what you need:

  • half an avocado
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 artichoke heart (cooked and diced)
  • 1/2 leek
  • 1-2 handful of chopped spinach
  • 2 teaspoons of turmeric
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • coconut oil (or other oil of preference)
  • 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • sprouts
  • sesame seeds (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of plain greek yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a pot and cook the leek until soft.
  2. Add in the turmeric and minced garlic. Once the garlic is golden, add in the chopped spinach.
  3. When the spinach has reduced, add in the quinoa to heat it. Mix well so the flavours blend together.
  4. Put the quinoa and veggies into a bowl and top with lime juice, avocado, artichoke, yogurt and sprouts.
  5. Enjoy!

5 Favourite Coffee Shops in Lima

Coffee in Peru has its history… but in the last few decades, it has mainly focused on exportation. Many locals throughout the country prefer to drink the Nescafe powder instead of good coffee in the French press for instance. 

When I came for the first time in 2009, it was really difficult to have a good cup of Joe. One thing that was weird to me was this coffee extract they mix with hot water. 

However, in the last two years, especially in Lima, there has been an explosion of small coffee shops and barista schools. 

So here it is, when you come to Lima, these are the coffee shops I have found that are low key, have a nice vibe, but can also make a really good cup of coffee.

El pan de la chola
I have loved this place ever since it had only a few tables. Now, although the space has considerably grown, I know I can always get a cappuccino exactly the way I love it.

Green Coffee/Cafe Verde
Green Coffee also does its own roasting. The small space always smells delicious, and they provide coffee for other shops, like El pan de la chola. 

Arabica
Arabica offers a really nice ambiance, and delicious coffee. I always ask for a double macciatto here.

Agora
Right near Parque Kennedy, in the heart of Miraflores, this small cafe allows you to sit outside and watch all the people walking by. Although it is not the most quiet place, it is perfect to meet with friends and their coffee is delicious!

Puku Puku
Puku Puku has two coffee shops and one is right near the Marriott and Larcomar in Miraflores. It is very tiny, but they promote organic coffee from the Andes and the Amazon.

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