Travelling while vegetarian
And here’s Part 4 of my trip review. Part 1 was about holidaying with srprs.me, Part 2Part 2 was about holidaying alone and Part 3Part 3 was all about Malaga. This part is about travelling as a (lifelong) vegetarian.
This was by far the most challenging aspect of the trip and the single thing that concerns me most about doing another similar trip.
My first night, I ended up eating in the hotel bar, because I didn’t feel confident about heading into the centre when it was dark and I hadn’t yet found my bearings (would have been absolutely fine, especially with the help of the trusty maps on my phone, which got me around the city the rest of the time) and the restaurant had just shut.
There was a single vegetarian option on the menu, which was a starter – deep friend camembert with red berry coulis. I asked the waiter if there was anything else vegetarian and he suggested they could do me there speciality salad, but leave out the tuna. So I agreed to have the salad followed by the camembert. And a cold beer (that was very good – and I’m fortunately not too fussy about making sure beer and wine is vegetarian).
The salad was fine and came with a mini bottle of balsamic vinegar and mini bottle of olive oil to drizzle over. And salt. Until, that is, I came across the two pieces of tuna that I hadn’t quite managed to remove from what must have been a ready-prepared salad. I removed them and kept eating, but as soon as I’d seen them the rest of the salad started to taste of tuna. The camembert was lovely, but quite dry.
I missed out on pudding somehow, too. I thought I’d said yes the pudding menu and ordered another beer at the same time. The waiter looked surprised and then brought the beer. Pretty sure I’d said I wanted beer for pudding and to not see the menu. Ah well. I had some sweets in the room left over from the journey.
The next day, after a breakfast (which was absolutely fine and classic hotel breakfast) at the hotel (thank you to srprs.me who added that option in as an unbooked extra) I wandered into the centre. I really wanted a bocadillo de tortilla, which is one of my all-time favourite Spanish ‘meals’. (Spanish omelette, made from onion, potato and egg, in a sandwich.) Couldn’t find any anywhere. I had a waffle at the Picasso museum, along with a (far too strong for me) coffee, while relaxing in a very pleasant and cool courtyard.
The best I could manage, mid-afternoon, was a ‘pincho de tortilla’ with some bread on the side (and a cold beer, of course). It was lovely, but I would have liked more.
Somehow, I didn’t manage to have churros y chocolate (probably my second favourite Spanish ‘meal’) – I think this was because it was just too hot, but am very annoyed with myself that I didn’t.
Dinner the next two nights was a lot better, but took a fair bit of searching. I walked around and around and around the historical centre looking at all the menus and seeing pretty much nothing I could eat. I found an Italian restaurant, though, which is my continental Europe go-to because there are always vegetarian options of pizza or pasta. I had a lovely aubergine, tomato and mozzarella pasta dish (with linguine) and a cold beer. Again, I managed to miss out on pudding, though. I thought I’d asked for the pudding menu (and my Spanish isn’t awful – I lived in Spain for a year as a kid, have a GCSE in it and even ran a Spanish club at our primary school for a term) but the waitress brought me the bill instead. Ah well. I got an ice cream for pudding instead, which was delicious.
The second night, I looked stuff up on the internet before going into town. There were some vegetarian/vegan restaurants but they all sounded a bit too wholesome for me (I’m not an especially healthy vegetarian – I like a lot of carbs and am very very fond of cheese), so I decided to go to an Italian restaurant which looked really good. Except, after walking around the block about five times, I realised that it didn’t exist anymore. Another (posh-looking and with nothing much veggie on the menu) restaurant seemed to have expanded into its space. So I headed back into the historical centre again, determined not to go to the same Italian restaurant again. It was still far too early for dinner, really, but I was looking around trying to find somewhere to go. I spotted a sign that specifically mentioned vegetarian options.
I was determined to go there for dinner, after I’d had a beer and pudding (having done some more reading, it turned out that Spanish people – I have no recollection of this at all – tend to go out for a cake and a little drink in the late afternoon and then eat dinner (and not pudding) later in the evening, around 9 or so. So I had a beer (actually two small beers) while reading my book and watching the world pass by (probably one of my favourite things to do on holiday) and then got an ice cream and tried to find my way back. And failed completely. The street was too small to appear on my phone’s map. I walked around and around and took this turning and that turning and totally couldn’t find it.
So, I ended up back with my default option – an Italian restaurant, though a different one to the night before. Where I had to have Caprese, because it’s Rosemary’s favourite (it was a massive helping though, and I think probably meant to be shared between three or four people). And then I had another pasta, aubergine, tomato and mozzarella dish. Delicious, but I was far too full after my ice cream and two beers. Ah well.
What’s the lesson here? Maybe it’s to just embrace Italian restaurants and accept that those are where you’re going to be able to eat a proper meal without any meat or fish. Or maybe it’s to read up a bit on what traditional local dishes are generally OK and go order them. Or to look up the vegetarian restaurants (because most cities do have one or two) and go eat there, even if it’s too healthy! It’s definitely not to not go, just in case, however. If push comes to shove, you can just go grab some bread and cheese and leave the restaurants alone (in fact, that’s what I ended up doing for lunch on my second day)!