In Barcelona, most tourists pass through Plaza George Orwell on their way to Las Ramblas or to see the historic Barrio Gotic. Husband and I where doing the same when we stumbled into this tiny plaza – and stopped in our tracks. When your band consists of one vegan and one vegetarian traveling in a meat eating nation, you are quick to hone in on a vegetarian restaurant immediately, let alone an entire community. In Plaza Orwell we saw multiple vegetarian restaurants nearly side-by-side with “Vegan!” advertisements hanging from colorful doors. We had found culinary home in Spain.
Many salad and hummus plates into our visit, we decided to dive in feet first, and hit the vegan joint, Gopal, at one corner of the plaza. This is considered “fast” food in Spain with lots of burger options, fake bacon and sandwiches. If you are living on tomato pan and olives, Gopal is a nice break from veggie tapas that you can sink your teeth into.
A few doors down is Vegetalia, which became my favorite Plaza Orwell vegetarian restaurant. A believer in sustainable, organic food, Vegetalia offers saffron rice, Thai tofu, quinoa, tempeh, lentils, brown rice, millet and seitan. You can choose the tapas route or settle in with a well-proportioned entree. Vegetalia doesn’t care how much you order as long as you are satisfied.
There are other great bars in the square serving veggie friendly tapas, with square-seating so you can watch families play in this bohemian atmosphere, which is part of the experience. Instead of passing through – linger. Have food that fills you, heart and soul.
As a strict vegetarian I’m a little harder to travel with than most. I have not sampled the wiener schnitzel in Austria, the foie gras in France or the blood sausage in Ireland. On my last trip I ate either Asian or Indian food every single day because they are the easiest menus to find variety on.
However, I’ve also been in countries where Asian and Indian foods are non-existent. So then what?
My first choice for vegetarian fare is the local farmers market. A delight of most European cities, farmers markets put you in the heart of a local community. You can also get fruit, nuts and easy vegetables for a picnic that day. I always pack a few sporks in my bag for spontaneous outdoor eating.
Locate the grocery store when you arrive at your destination. Even if you are not vegetarian, grocery stores are another lesson on the culture you’ve just stepped into. Ponder over the labels and look for canned goods that have easy open tops. You can also pack a hand-twist can opener in your carry-on bag without TSA problems.
Talk to a local produce vendor at the farmers market about restaurants that have vegetarian meals. They typically know about restaurants that have meatless options nearby. If there is a language barrier in the area you will be traveling in, pack along a good travel dictionary that has phonetic spellings for saying key phrases or words.
If you are staying in a city for a few days, research apartment rentals online. I have always had great success finding apartments with kitchens for less than an average hotel. Considering the money you save buying groceries versus eating out for every meal, it’s well worth the effort.
For a list of helpful vegetarian eating establishments worldwide, check out Happy Cow or the Vegetarian Vacation URL guide.
Happy meatless travels!