Our big trip this summer was visiting Europe. We were invited to our friend’s wedding in Wales and when you get invited to a wedding in Wales, you go, dammit! I’d intended to blog daily, while traveling, about all the delicious vegan foods we discovered on said trip. This was ambitious. And unrealistic. There was just so many lovely things to see and eat and do and lots of adventuring means less time for blogging. However, the memories of so many delicious meals are still fresh, fresh like all the vegan food (almost all, the vegan sandwich from the vending machine at the Barcelona airport would make no converts, man, that thing was bad) we ate throughout London, Wales, France, Spain, Portugal, and one outstanding dinner with lovely vegan friends in Istanbul, Turkey. The most exciting takeaway from our travels? VEGANISM IS SPREADING. The number of vegan restaurants and vegan options in stores, the level of awareness about veganism in the world in general, and the amount of curiosity we encountered was incredibly encouraging. From the girl selling sour cherry liqueur shots out of a window in next to the San Jorge castle in Lisbon, to the packed Vegan Nights festival in London, to our friend’s perfect wedding in the Welsh countryside with an entire menu for the vegans–people are waking up to the reality that meat is not only horrifically cruel, it’s unsustainable for the future of the planet. The world is waking up. Veganism is the future, and that calls for celebration: Food talk time, yaaaaay!
The outward journey–know your fly game.
Of course, no flight is complete without a sandwich, which is why we always pack our own (#shamelessselfpromotion). But the airlines are catching on, too. Icelandair had a clearly marked vegan meal, which we didn’t try, because of the aforementioned sandwich, but it looked delicious, and cruelty-free. Normally I’d buy one of these just because–vote with your dollars, people, and show businesses that vegan options are wanted! However, this was the first leg of our trip, and those sandwiches weren’t going to last forever.
The airport in Reykjavik had a strong vegan game, too, with smoothies, salads, and chocolates heavy on taste but free from animal products.
Even the store in the London airport when we arrived had lots of vegan options, including sandwiches and clearly marked vegan wine!! Swoon. File that under things that make my heart happy, especially because the bus from the airport was a two hour ride. That wine came in handy.
The first night-Veganism in the U.K.:
Our first night in London we were lucky enough to meet up with some bad ass vegan friends (hey Kirsty and Jules, you rule!) that took us to the London Vegan Nights Festival. So much good food. So many lovely vegan people. Plus music. And shopping! And, this happens once a month, so if you’re traveling to London at the beginning of any month, chances are you can stop by this “Monthly Plant based Party on Brick Lane.” Come hungry–it’s worth repeating, there is a lot of damn good vegan food. The cheesesteak was my fave, because I don’t think there’s a more perfect food than the sandwich. #sandwichparty
From the top down: Tempeh BBQ with mac and cheese shown off by the lovely Kirsty, clearly marked vegan wine, and an oooey, gooey, tasty af vegan cheesesteak from Jake’s Vegan Steaks (good job putting your shop name on the steak wrapping, guys!) and a pb and j cupcake from Vida Bakery. Perfection. #Travellertip: If you don’t have friends just happen to be there and want to take you to a vegan festival, hit up Camden instead. The Temple of Seitan is there (bummed we didn’t get to make it there!) and the whole area is just cool. We went to two metal bars (spotted a Manowar shirt next to a Rotting Christ shirt, HORNS UP!!!) and generally had a bad-ass time.
The lovely loving wedding:
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the food at the wedding because it’s not super helpful to you, the reader, since you’re not going to be able to personally get any of this amazing food (unless you have an occasion to be at the Coed Hills Rural Artspace in Wales!) but it is illustrative of a) how cool our friends are (we love you Lucy and Rob!) and b) how much veganism is becoming mainstream. Plus this cake was not only sumptuous looking but equally tasting as well.
We were only in Wales for a night after the wedding, staying with our newly-married friends who were kind enough to let us stay with them the first night after they were married (!!!) but we were impressed by the evidence of the spread of veganism. (Hey, if you turn this blog post into a drinking game and take a drink every time I say the word “vegan” in some form you’ll be drunk already! Seriously, though, repetition is a form of suggestion. My friend Holly calls it “semantic activism,” which I very much like.) There were burger joints (boo!) featuring vegan burgers prominently (yay!) and vegan options at every cafe we stopped at. #Travellertip: Cardiff Castle takes about one hour and you feel a little like you’re going back in time. It’s right by the train station if you have some time to kill.
Pictured above: Pineapple smoothie and pistachio cake. Imagine that table in the castle being loaded with vegan food, droooooool.
Paris: City of Love and #deliciousveganfood
I’m starting off Paris with the #TravellerTip because this is seriously one of the best things you can do when you’re travelling: Get a phone plan that works worldwide. T-Mobile definitely works all over Europe. Then, Google “Vegan Restaurants Near Me.” Then use Google Maps and walk there. This is honestly how we found most of the places we dined, and we were rarely disappointed. Plus, walking is a great way to see the city and you can eat more! Win-win!
Our first night in Paris we went to Le Grenier de Notre Dame. The food was excellent. I wish I could describe it in more detail. I honestly don’t remember what we ordered. Something with quinoa and beans, evidently. I do remember being pretty damn happy. Vegan food, bringer of happiness.
Since Paris is not cheap, we were trying to limit our meals to one nice meal out a day. The next night we chose Brasserie 2eme Art and man, what a good choice. Great service, delicious food, and dedicated to the cause of saving animals.
Clayton, ever the traditionalist, went with the house burger, and I opted for the appetizer plate with all manner of deep-fried delicacies, from samosas, to seitan bites, to veggies. #Travellertip: Don’t be afraid to be a copycat. I saw someone else getting the appetizer plate and it looked amazing, so I just ordered that. We didn’t do that the night before, and, while our food was great, the people next to us had dishes that looked outstanding. Stealing meal ideas is perfectly acceptable, especially when the menu is in another language.
Side note, this was the night of the 2018 World Cup semi-finals. We naively thought that we’d have a little dinner, then wander into a pub to watch the game. Apparently, one does not simply wander into a pub in Paris when France is in the World Cup semi-finals. Everywhere was PACKED. But the energy is electric and contagious, and, while it is impossible to plan a trip around being in the country of the World Cup finalists (unless you’re rich, then lucky you, enjoy the spontaneity wealth can afford!), if you happen to be in that situation and have a little flexibility of your schedule, stay put for the game. We’ve never experienced anything like it. After France won the semi-finals, Paris burst into a collective joyful celebration. It was incredible to witness.
Our third day in Paris we wanted to go to a cabaret show so we opted to forgo a fancy dinner in a restaurant and instead make sandwiches in our hotel room. Again with the sandwiches, aka THE PERFECT FOOD. Man, I love sandwiches.
Also, the cabaret is a must in Paris. We went to Lido de Paris. It reminded me a bit of Cirque du Soleil but with a lot more choreographed topless dancing. Beautiful sets, beautiful people, beautiful music.
Last morning in Paris was spent wandering around, sipping coffee, sock shopping (because well-dressed feet are cause for strutting) and finding more vegan deliciousness. We wanted to go to the catacombs. That wasn’t going to happen. #TravellerTip: Listen to people who tell you to get advance tickets for popular tourist spots, because that line was around the block.
Paris, city of love, beauty, culture, and tons of good vegan food. We can’t recommend it enough.
Quick note: Trains in France, at least the ones we took, had marked vegan options. The train from Paris to Avignon even had a dedicated veg menu created by chefs and endorsed by the Vegetarian Society of France! I took a photo of the package because even though it tasted fine, the edamame and quinoa salad wasn’t pretty to look at. The little French potato chips were super cute, though!
A charming little town situated in Southern France, the center of Avignon is surrounded by a high wall and filled with pubs, shops, and of course, delicious vegan food. Getting to the center of town took us awhile: We spent over an hour at the Vitrolles train station when we first arrived attempting to explain to our Uber driver exactly where we were. #TravellerTip: Install Google Translate. Seriously, spending 45 minutes one the phone (and a bunch of money because those minutes are international) having a hopeless conversation in two different languages is fun for noone. Or if you’re in Avignon, try to get a train to the TGV station, which is right in the center of town. Hey! Another #TravellerTip. How about that.
We visited Avignon during theater festival season, so the whole town was bustling with tourists and actors strolling through town putting on mini-performances in an effort to entice people into seeing their particular play. It was a festive, slightly chaotic, exciting atmosphere and once we finally found the bar where our Airbnb host had left the key (after several attempts during which I dashed into the wrong bar asking for “Le cle, si vous plait!” and feeling like I was in a bad spy novel) we headed out for our first vegan meal. Again, having that worldwide cell service is GREAT. Maps to bars with keys and tasty meals, all in your phone. Amazing.
Chic Planete was a few minutes from our apartment, and looked promising. Promise delivered! Man! The food here was sublime. Thick cut pomme frites, fresh salad with house thousand, and house-made veggie burgers. Simple, but well-prepared and flavorful. We gave them a Snackrilege button as a tip. And money, of course–#TravellerTip: Everyone loves being shown appreciation monetarily, even if “they don’t expect it.” Be a traveller that tips, people! Plus, we’re having enough of an image problem on the world stage right now. We want to show the world that the people of the US have class even if our president (#notmypresident) doesn’t.
Avignon, like so many places in Europe, is lovely for strolling. The streets are narrow and bustling, with cafes, boutiques, and spacious public squares. One of my favorite parts of any trip is walking around, soaking it all in, pausing for coffee and wine at 11 am with no shame or judgement. Seeing the sights is important, too, of course (we went to the Palais des Papes, the Palace of Popes) but walking and people watching is so relaxing (plus saves a little money, which there is never enough of when travelling).
Another way to conserve cash is eating in, so the next night we skipped on dinner out and ate in the Airbnb. There was a grocery store right around the corner with a large vegan selection. The meal wasn’t super pretty but it was super tasty and isn’t that what really counts? #TravellerTip: Make sure you stay in a place with a stove and microwave, if not an Airbnb then a hotel. It’s surprisingly relaxing to cook meals on vacation.
Yes, the parmesan was vegan.
Saving money on dinner meant more money for an evening out, and since it was theater time, we wanted to go to a play. There are a few plays in English during the Avignon theater festival, and originally we’d thought we’d attend one of those, but Clayton spotted a flyer that spoke our language even though it was in French. Any guesses? Hint: Get out those drinks, people.
Yeeeeesss! A play about veganism! Sadly, a play entirely in French was too much and we left halfway through but we were able to explain to the actress before the show that we were there in vegan solidarity but might not be there the whole time. I think (hope) she understood. A fitting end to our time in Avignon–supporting veganism! On to our next destination.
Aix-en-Provence-Beauty in the South of France
I’d wanted to go to the South of France since high school. My French teacher, Ron Notto, spoke of sparkling beaches, lavender fields, and leisurely afternoons filled with strong coffee and rich red wine. Aix-en-Provence wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined but it was definitely everything I dreamed of (minus the beaches). And as fun as Avignon was, I wasn’t sad to be leaving our Airbnb. Despite having an excellent location, the bed was, I can safely say, one of the worst we’ve slept on in the entire world. So getting to Aix-en-Provence (or simply, Aix) and being greeted at our hotel, the Odalys City Aix by the friendliest front desk person our whole trip (shout out to Sonia, you rule sister!) and given a key to a spacious, comfortable room with a kitchen and situated right by the pool was a double treat. And no, I’m not receiving compensation from anyone, I honestly just really liked this hotel. Plus, it was within walking distance of some truly outstanding vegan food! (If you were actually playing the drinking game I’m not sure you’d still be able to read by now, but just in case, I’ll pause for you to take that shot.)
Google recommended Aux Petits Oignons, but when we arrived they were packed (another example of the rise of veganism!!) so we opted for apps at Beyrits first. Falafel gets an A+! The Baba Ganoush gets an A+! (Roz the vegan, *drink*, food critic over here.) I don’t know why Europe has so much more outdoor seating than the US (I’m guessing it’s at least partly because we’re more car-centric over here) but dinner on a patio in the summer just tastes better. Both restaurants were delicious, though I’d recommend Aux Petits Oignons because they’re all vegan and they have a truly inspiring commitment to promoting safe sex.
We thought we’d get to experience a celebration being in Aix on Bastille Day. Bastille Day was definitely fun, with music and dancing and the usual celebratory goings on of a national holiday. Bastille Day, however, was nothing in comparison to the next night, July 15, 2018, the night France won the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. Aix isn’t a huge city, about 143,000 according to Wikipedia, and I think we may have seen all 143,000 people pour out into the streets the night France won the 2018 World Cup. People were ecstatic. If there is any way you can be in a county the night that country wins the World Cup, you should definitely do it. The atmosphere was pure joy. Plus, we had a lovely vegan meal while the game was happening, and honestly, I can’t think of anything more joyful than not eating animals.
An amazing last night in France, and a wonderful end to the first half of our travels. Up next: Barcelona! Stay tuned.