Picture seeing your all time favorite musician or singer in Paris, but instead of performing in a typical concert venue, the show is in a circus tent, and that circus tent is on an island, and as you watch the show, outside its snowing. This is what we saw February 24, when we went to see Björk perform during her Biophilia residency. Of course, it was extremely odd going from a spontaneous idea to physically being there, but I still look back in shock that I actually did this, and that what I saw was as beautiful as I had hoped. This was the fifth time I had seen her, and she’ll never know how far I traveled, how strangely and personally important that specific journey was for me.
But this trip I went on became more than just this Björk show. It became a small but wonderful trip with my boyfriend, Steve. We had never been Europe together, and more importantly, never went on a totally short-notice trip, so there was a level of excitement that pushed the trip. We also tried to approach the trip from a relaxed perspective, and to see where streets and our instincts took us.
Since this is Veggie Bunny, this post will focus on the aspect I know everyone cares about: the awesome vegan stuff! London and Paris were both perfect spots for a veg-couple (that’s right, veg-couple, ’cause while I am vegan, Steve’s been doing vegetarian since Labor Day and hasn’t looked back since). In terms of easy access, London was incredible. You could walk a few blocks and eventually find yourself by a vegetarian restaurant, and if you went to a regular restaurant, there were many, many vegetarian options.
Paris, while a bit difficult to navigate in terms of veg stuff, had just as much stuff as London, if you looked hard enough. And once you kept an eye open, you’d find just what you were looking for. We stayed in the 10 arrondisement, by the Canal St. Martin, in a room off of AirBNB. This area is up and coming, and completely charming and lively and full of great veg options, including two vegan restaurants (Soya and Sol Semilla), an organic supermarket (Naturalia), a juice bar (Bob’s Juice), a farmers market on Sundays, and the best bakery in Paris (according to our host).
I owe a lot of my vegan-Paris discoveries to a recent issue of VegNews, but more importantly, a wonderful eBook on Amazon titled Vegan Paris. For only 3 dollars, the book was an incredible resource, written by a long-time resident of Paris. I highly recommend this guide if you are a vegan in Paris!
To view some of our vegan discoveries (lots of photos), continue reading!
On our first night in London, we went to a restaurant I heard a lot about, Mildred’s in Soho.
Mildred’s was definitely one of the top vegan meals I’ve had in any place . The place is the definition of quaint. Walking in on a crowded night, you may find yourself packed in with other waiting customers as waiters squeeze by with plates of bright, vibrant dishes. This wait was worth it however, and even added to the charm of the cozy, popular vegetarian restaurant. Luckily we were given a seat at the window, which gave us some nice personal space and a good view for people watching. Their menu is a mix of vegetarian and vegan food, but luckily their best menu items are vegan friendly, including an amazing mushroom ale pie with mushy peas and chips:
Steve and I loved this dish, as well as a fantastic bean and tomato soup, and banoffee pie for dessert. Definitely a wonderful meal for a cold night, and its perfect for a nice night out with someone you love!
The next day we grabbed a snack at InSpiral Lounge in Camden Town, which is a really cool place right next to a canal, with lovely views of Camden Market. We came across InSpiral by chance, as a friend had recommended visiting Camden Town. Inside InSpiral, they have vegan smoothies, ice cream, meals and coffee drinks. Overall, it was a cute and relaxing place. Also noted, they had vegan English breakfast!
Later that night we decided to try an Indian restaurant. Many places in London have curries, but we wanted to check out Woodlands, an all vegetarian Indian restaurant, right around the corner from Picadilly Circus. Woodlands has a separate vegan menu as well. Word of warning, however, their food is extremely spicy! I would say by default even moreso than places in the US.
Following that night, it was time to pack up and get on the train to Paris. Our first night in Paris, after learning of being right around the corner from the best bakery is Paris, Du Pain et Des Idees, we knew it was our first stop.
While Du Pain et Des Idees is not a vegan bakery, they do have incredible, incredible bread, including the photo above, Pain Des Amis. This bread was crusty and slightly charred on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. It was perfect for making sandwiches from groceries at Naturalia. Naturalia is a chain of organic, all natural food stores in Paris, which carries plenty of vegan friendly groceries, such as vegan deli meat, hummus, different kinds of croquettes, tofu dishes, seitan ravioli, and staples such as soy milk/almond milk/etc.
In the Canal St. Martin area was a gorgeous, beautiful restaurant called Soya. On a small street, it doesn’t even have a sign outside, but you know its Soya, because of its large windows with giant candles illuminating the inside. Inside, the place is dim, lit only by even more oversized candles, which dot individual tables along with communal tables. The menu at Soya is a mixture of vegetarian and vegan, but their vegan dishes are quite amazing. My favorite was their curry special, and their dessert, which was a chocolate tofu cream. The servers can speak English and they offer an English menu. Oh, did I mention they have a resident kitty?
By the Bastille is Gentle Gourmet Cafe, the best restaurant we ate at during our trip. Gentle Gourmet Cafe is wonderful because it offers excellent French food, completely veganized. Through Paris, all restaurants have very few if any vegan options, aside from salad. We definitely felt like we were missing out but Gentle Gourmet Cafe changed everything.
We had an appetizer sampler with salads topped with lightly fried Vegusto vegan cheese, Vichyssoise (Potato Leek) soup, mushroom “faux gras,” and Lyonnaise salad. The entrees were hard to choose from, as they offered such dishes as mushroom stew and vegan fondue, but we both chose the seitan tatin dish, which was an enormous plate of seitan, with mashed potatoes, shallots, and apples. The dish was amazing, and some of the best seitan I’ve ever had.
Best of all, Gentle Gourmet had…
Crepes! They have a large selection of crepes, the above being salted caramel, filled with cream. Definitely the best crepe of my life. And this restaurant, overall, was one of the best meals I’ve ever had! The service was wonderful, the setting was quite cute, and was fitting as a special place to go when you feel like treating yourself on a trip. They also have breakfast, which I wanted to do but we never got a chance to return. But I still rave about that one dinner, it was really that memorable.
Saveurs Veget’Halles is a well known vegan restaurant in the Les Halles area of Paris, and with good reason. The food is reliable and delicious, and is also sure to please, as they offer both wholesome options but also a lot of mock-style vegan food. It’s hard to describe this place, but its really, really delicious. Take a look at their mushroom loaf with blackberry sauce:
Their food comes with the chickpeas pictured above, and rice. After a long day at the Louvre, this food was exactly what we needed. And it was extremely affordable too, with a pre-fix dinner plan that offers an appetizer, entree and dessert for 19 euros. While the setting of the place leaves much to be desired, the kind service and really unique, delicious food makes it a go-to stop.
The last place of note we visited was the famous L’as Du Falafel in Le Marais. We came across this renowned falafel shop by luck, and I am forever grateful to my intuitive feet. L’As Du Falafel has been around since the ’70s, and has been called out for being the best falafel in possibly the world. They seem really proud of the fact that Lenny Kravitz really digs them, so they have his face and accolades posted around the shop. Most people come for take out, so there’s always a long line, but the scene is worth seeing – as the shop is on a pedestrian path, and its very lively. Plus, the vibrant green facade really pops out.
Pictured here is me with my enormous falafel sandwich – there had to have been ten of these little things stuffed into a big fluffy pita, along with veggies and roasted eggplant. As you can see in the background, the place draws quite a large crowd. The wait isn’t long, and it is absolutely worth it – this falafel was like no other falafel I had ever had previously. L’As Du Falafel is very easy to get to, so don’t miss it!
Paris was definitely not easy at times to figure out as a vegan, but there are options everywhere if you look: Indian restaurants, Lebanese restaurants, Cambodian, Italian, as well as the many kinds of markets where you can buy breads and fruits and vegetables for picnics. Aside what we did manage to get to and which I shared here, there were vegan bakeries and grocery stories and veggie burger joints and pizzas and a chocolate shop. But you can’t do everything in just one week, and I am grateful for what I did see and do and experience. Most importantly, I’m glad I had someone with me who I care about deeply, and who cares about the same kinds of things as me. And, not to mention, traveling so far with me just to see a concert. I realize now I owe him one. But I don’t think I’d mind at all!
Overall tips for traveling as a vegan in Paris:
-The french word for vegan is Vegetalien. You’ll be surprised to find this word where you least expect it, including some supermarkets.
-If you need vegan groceries, keep an eye open for Naturalia supermarkets.
-There is an all vegan supermarket called Un Monde De Vegan which I sadly did not get to visit, but it looks like a fantastic place to plan your stay nearby – they have everything vegan you could dream of, including candy bars and different brands of cheeses and croissants.
-Before your trip, look up different markets, and farmer’s markets. One, which we did not attend but heard plenty about, is the Raspail Organic market, which has organic produce and vegan stands.
-Treat yourself to the Vegan in Paris eBook on Amazon, which was incredibly helpful. I would not have known about many places without it.
-Some restaurants are closed Sundays or Mondays. Look ahead to make sure you can make it to some of these places during your trip. Also, some places, such as Gentle Gourmet Cafe, are popular, and may require reservations.
-Most places we visited, like museums, had few vegan options for snacks. You will see sandwiches or pastries as food items often, and sandwiches for vegetarians usually contained cheese. Be sure to stock up on lunch items when you can.
-Again, I recommend the Canal St. Martin area, as it offered access to the most vegan places we came across, including other ethnic restaurants with vegan options. The area is accessible with three different metro stops, including Republique, which was a hub for several lines, and not far from Gare Du Nord, if you are taking a train in to the city.
-Enjoy yourself and don’t fret about options. They are there if you look, and trust me, you will be surprised and happy!