I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Europe with my family this month. We visited my sister in Rome, where she is studying abroad for the semester, and then we all headed to Paris for the remainder of her spring break. Before I traveled, a couple of people asked me how I was going to be vegan while abroad. Although this was my first big trip since switching to a plant-based diet, I honestly wasn’t too concerned. That being said, it turned out to be even better than expected – I got to try all the things you want to taste when you go to Rome (pizza and gelato) and Paris (fresh bread) while still supporting the lifestyle I love.
Below are some of the delicious highlights from my adventures and the lessons I learned along the way. Some pictures are linked to restaurants if you are lucky enough to go to Rome or Paris and want to check them out.
As always, I am incredibly thankful for my supportive family who was willing to go out of their way to try vegan restaurants, help me find options on menus and cook healthy dinners together.
1. Make friends.
The first night that we stayed in Rome, my family went to a restaurant up the street from our place, primarily because they had a yummy vegan burger on the menu. One thing led to another and we ended up talking to one of the owners, a vegetarian and former vegan himself. He happily talked to my family about vegan options, the farm-to-table concept of his business and the vegan scene in Europe. At the end of the night, he even brought over a bag of vegan pasta for us to take home.
Throughout the entire trip, every waiter we spoke with was more than happy to answer my standard questions – “Does this have any dairy in it?”, “Is this made with eggs?” In addition to ensuring that you are eating sustainably, this helps spread the vegan message. These questions make people think about vegan options a little more than they would otherwise so asking questions ends up having a ripple effect.
2. Enjoy the local favorites.
You can eat compassionately AND enjoy classic dishes when you travel. I found ways to enjoy all the things my family was eating without much hassle. At one Italian restaurant, we asked about the pizza crusts (thank you, translator app) and the waiter happily wrote down the ingredients on the paper table cloth to confirm that it contained no dairy products. I was able to order a veggie pie without cheese and life was good. Later that same day, my sister showed us one of the vegan gelato spots she had found while studying abroad (yes, there was more than one in the area) and when there’s vegan gelato, you have to go for it! I enjoyed a dairy-free lemon and blackberry cone as I walked down the street with my family.
3. When in doubt, keep it simple and fresh.
One day while roaming the streets of Paris, my family couldn’t decide what to get for lunch. As it reached 3 pm without a full meal, frustration quickly turned into full on #hanger. I should mention, we did A LOT of walking while we traveled. We barely touched public transportation; a “light” day of walking was 8 miles, but most days we averaged between 10 and 14 miles while we were out seeing the sights. Anyways, that day in Paris, my family ultimately settled on sandwiches and pastries at a small shop. I had been eyeing up all the fruit stands we had passed so I happily grabbed some large carrots and a huge bin of grapes for my meal. That was the start of my grape addiction – my family actually had to start dragging me away from the fruit stands over the remaining days.
Throughout the entire trip I enjoyed eating fresh fruit for breakfast and snacks. Bananas, kiwis, apples, dates, tomatoes, strawberries – whatever we found, I ate it! I’ve actually continued this for breakfasts since I’ve been home for a quick and easy start to the day, Chop whatever fruit you have on hand, add some hemp or chia seeds and bam – you have a sweet bowl of nature’s candy to enjoy!
4. Check out the vegan scene.
My family frequently utilized Happy Cow, a site that allows you to search for vegan and vegetarian options near you. My siblings and I went to vegan burger joint for dinner one night (a burger, side and drink for 13 euros…you just can’t beat that) and turns out if you go there, you get a coupon for free pizza at the nearby vegan pizza place. So that was dinner another night. In Rome, we happened to pass by a fast food take out place that had a fairly sizable vegan menu. The world is changing and although I never feel like I need to go to a vegan restaurant to eat out, it’s always fun to be able to order off the entire menu and see what creations they have to offer. Even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, consider making a plant-based restaurant part of your next trip.
5. Make dinner time, family time.
A commonality from all our family vacations is that we don’t usually go out to eat every single meal. Instead, we love hitting up the local grocery stores to make one or two meals a day. It’s a great way to keep things a little healthier and save money. It might sound odd, but we always have a ton of fun picking out unique offerings at whatever shop we visit. Hence, why you see lots of plates with mache greens (a soft salad green that I am now obsessed with) and lentils in the pictures above. Our apartment in Paris had full kitchen so when we came home exhausted from a full day filled with walking, it felt so nice to make dinner together, pour some wine and then spend the rest of the evening lounging in our comfy clothes.
So there you had it, my Rome and Paris vegan eats in 24 pictures and five lessons. I hope this inspires you to incorporate delicious plant-based choices in your own travels. And when you do, send me your drool-worthy pictures!
I now officially have the travel bug and can’t wait to explore another part of this beautiful world! Where do you want to travel next?