How To Eat Pray Love Your Way Through Kenya
Courtesy: MEAACT Photo/Stuart Price
This Valentine’s marks 11 years since the memoirs of a soul-searching woman warmed millions of hearts across the globe. Eat, Pray, Love and its 2010 big screen adaptation starring Julia Roberts inspired a generation of travellers seeking a similar experience as author Elizabeth Gilbert.
An Eat Pray Love trip is all about fulfilling a yearning for escape and discovery. But what if you don’t have the time or budget for a one person search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia? Well, you always have Kenya. All of Italy’s culinary pleasures, India’s spirituality, and Bali’s bliss can be found right here in Kenya. You just have to know where to look.
Where better to start than in Nairobi? The city’s food scene is the best anywhere in the country. Eat how Liz ate in Rome and indulge in devilishly lovely Italian food at Trattoria Ristorante & Pizzeria, the oldest family run Italian restaurant in town. Their menu consists of Italy’s time-honoured recipes, including Pizza Margherita’s you’ll want to have a relationship with.
The city is a dizzying explosion of tastes and cuisines. Its pleasures are all there for you to discover. Pack an appetite and experience the best of Chinese at Graceful Chinese, American at Caramel, Barbeque at The Carnivore, Japanese at Mukutan Garden Café, Thai fusion at Zen Garden, and French at the Lord Erroll.
Get the TV treatment at Seven Seafood & Grill, owned and run by Kenya’s first celebrity chef Kiran Jethwa. Or go out to the shops of Parklands’ Diamond Plaza and downtown open-air markets to find a treasure trove of sweets, spices, herbs and ingredients.
All said, you will never go wrong with local favourites– ugali served with nyama choma or fried fish and kachumbari. You can’t do the Eat leg of your Kenyan Eat Pray Love tour and not stop by the legendary Njuguna’s or the unassuming Mama Oliech’s which served meals to, among others, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Head out West and coddle in the magical culture and serenity that part of the country has to offer. There you will not find inner-peace through the wise texts of the Bhagavad Gita like Liz did inside the ashrams of India, but you will still re-connect and with the right luck find enlightenment.
The Kakamega Forest is a remnant of an era gone by. Follow its trails to reveal the secrets this enchanting place holds; bustling bird and wildlife, centuries-old canopies and the beautiful little Isiukhu fall.
Spiritual practices and traditional myths are a hallmark here. Visit the Crying Stone of Ilesi where the locals perform rituals and healing. Legend has it that its dripping waters are the tears of a heartbroken husband whose wife left him for another man. Others believe that this is where Nabongo Mumia, the last great King of the Wanga Kingdom wept for his people after British colonialists conquered their land. Similarly, the Kit Mikayi Shrine in Kisumu is the most famous freestanding rock formation in Africa. Its grounds are revered and its mysteries have boggled tourists and archeologists alike.
Ride into the close-by town of Vihiga and catch a glimpse of the Gevera Stone. The curious stone bears an imprint said to be that of Jesus’ foot. There is neither scientific nor canonical proof of Christ ever setting foot on this side of the world, let alone the stone, but that’s not to stop you from bathing in its nourishing waters.
Few places can provide the balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence that Liz was afforded by Bali. The Kenyan coast is one of them. You’re not guaranteed to find your sexy Brazilian soul mate at Mida Creek, but you will definitely fall in love.
Paddle through the beautiful mangroves and corals which harbor birds, crabs, sea turtles and a myriad species of fish. In fact, just like Bali, Mida Creek is a UNESCO-recognised area. In the evening, perch yourself atop the winding boardwalk and watch as the sunset paints the sea waters in a golden hue.
Make your way to Funzi Island. It may be remote (only accessible by boat or air) but it is a little slice of heaven on earth. A place you don’t have to cross a street to walk in the sunshine, because it is all sunshine. Stay at The Funzi Keys (currently closed for renovations) and enjoy a life-affirming experience.
This last leg of your Eat Pray Love travels can take you to other worthy destinations around the country too. One such place is Lake Michaelson– a disk-shaped wonder located in the midst of mountain peaks at over 4000m of altitude. Or, for a less mountainous effort, set up camp on a farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills where one of Africa’s most famous romances blossomed.