Vegan on Vacation: Costa Brava, Spain
As much as I looked forward to my holiday in Spain, I was well aware of the fact that "vegan" wasn't exactly the first thing that springs to mind when you think of traditional Spanish cuisine - especially if, like us, you're headed far from big, cosmopolitan cities like Madrid and Barcelona (that, as far as I have heard, do have a vegan scene) to Tossa De Mar, a tiny town on the coast where the typical diet consists of ham, seafood and cheese-topped this-or-the-other. Nevertheless, I was determined to make it work. And you know what? It went wonderfully.
Above, you can see a sample plate of my glorious week's worth of buffet breakfasts at Tossa De Mar's lovely Windsor Hotel - truly fabulous. Fresh fruit, toast with strawberry jam, juice and coffee - I don't know about you, but personally, I have nothing more to ask of a breakfast. I bounded downstairs like a happy little puppy every morning, imagining my yummy plate, without feeling (almost) at all tempted by the display of croissants and pain au chocolat on the buffet. In short, it was heaven.
Lunch is where things start getting a bit tricky. As we spent most of our time on the beach (obviously), our lunch destinations were often beach bars, where a "vegetarian" sandwich often included tuna and/or chicken. Now, I understand that the term "vegetarian" does often involve eggs and cheese, sure, but tuna? What's vegetarian about tuna? My guess is that the general idea must have been to draw attention to the fact that the "vegetarian" tuna sandwich was often the ONLY non-meat item on the lunch menu. Including the salads. Sigh. Fortunately, we found a place that did huge vegan baguettes with peppers, tomatoes and onions - yum - and another one that specialised in the most amazing grilled veggies.
If you find yourself in Tossa, go to bar Can Jaume that's just off the main beach and up on the main road - unfortunately they have no website. The grilled vegetables are to die for.
A very important note: obviously, veggies only are not a fully acceptable vegan diet, not even for a week, and if you're vegan, chances are you've done your homework and are aware of this fact. What I did was buy four huge tins of beans, lentils and chickpeas, stock my hotel room bar fridge and snack on these protein- and iron-rich goodies throughout my holiday. I advise you do the same if you find yourself in a similar predicament - if I'd tried surviving on fruit, veggies, coffee and alcohol alone, I wouldn't even have had the energy to go to the beach. Good news: while shopping for the aforementioned beans, I found tofu as well as soy and almond milk at one of the tiny town's supermarkets! The times they are a-changin'! Another step forward was finding a veggie burger in one of the beach bars:
I don't remember what its name was, but it was right in front of the beach. Remember to ask for sin queso (no cheese) and enjoy!
As for dinner, pizza is a hot tip (the sin queso thing goes here too) as vegetarian pizza is present almost in all pizzerias. But my best advice is: PAELLA. Seriously. Go for the vegetarian paella. You won't regret it.
We went to the fantastic and lovely Bar Lluis that had the best veggie paella in the place (and I'd know - in a week, I sampled four different paellas!). This was one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life, complete with wine and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
Dessert-wise, forget about the restaurants. Frankly, they're not very good, even if you're not vegan. Most of them serve frozen desserts and have a somewhat ridiculous dessert list (newsflash, a Magnum ice cream is not a dessert!). Go for a walk by the beach and have a sorbet. They're fruity and delicious.
Bottom line: being vegan is possible all over the world. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere! Well, maybe not Argentina. But you get the point.