Generally, being a vegetarian is a lifestyle choice that I find pretty easy. There is so much choice out there; the supermarkets spoil us with the huge range of fruit and veg., meat-free products and dairy-free milks and yoghurts. Restaurants and cafés almost always have veggie options. Well, at least this is true for the UK (especially in London).
I find the real challenge comes whenever I travel somewhere abroad (of course this hugely depends on the country!).
This past week I have been away in sunny Valencia – a great few days of sun, sand and exploring. I was pretty sure that Spain as a whole is a pretty meat-loving country, but didn’t realise to what extent till I started to explore for myself. Iberian ham and cured meats of all kind are very popular out there, and in Valencia (being coastal), seafood (especially tuna in tapas and prawns in paella) is everywhere!
So how did I manage as a veggie?
Food: the good and the bad
My first meal out there was a lunch of tapas, which was at a cute little place (Casa Montaña) I stumbled across on the way to the hotel. The staff there were very accommodating, even suggesting which tapa and quantities to choose. I had some amazingly fruity and delicious olives, fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, patatas bravas, crusty bread and an aubergine pickle on toasted bread. For dessert a yummy orange dessert which was like a cross-between a crème brûlée and a cheesecake. It was all delicious and very fresh.
Tapas and dessert
Generally the restaurants and cafés I went to were very accommodating; at one place I asked for a salad without the tuna which they didn’t have a problem with.
Patatas bravas with salsa and aioli (garlic dip) and salad sans tuna
There were a few places where I saw signs for veggie and vegan food in the city centre; unfortunately I didn’t test these places out, but they looked like good options to try!
The central market was a great place to find fresh fruit and veg. Of course, I had to try out the oranges……
When in Valencia…..
Tapas: A lot of the tapas options will either contain dried/cured meats or tuna; there are a few vegetarian options but a bit of a struggle to put a meal together. Also, be cautious about some dishes which may appear to be veggie but are not; at first I ordered an aubergine dish which turned out to contain sardines (not mentioned on the menu). Fortunately, they were super accommodating and nice about it when I mentioned being veggie and brought me a replacement free of charge.
Paella: traditionally, paella contains either meat or seafood. Being a traditional Valencian dish, most of the paella I found contained seafood. However, there was a place in the centre of town where I found a Paella verdure – Vegetable Paella which was really nice.
Burgers/fast food: usually, you would expect there to be a veggie option at a fast food place, right? Wrong. Not counting chips/onion rings or some form of potato-based product, I found in several places that there are no veggie options! Veggie burgers are not a thing there and are very hard to find (unless a specifically vegan/veggie place – I found one which advertised their veggie burgers).
Sight-seeing and entertainment
There was a lot to see and do, as with any big city. The city of arts and sciences was a magnificient display of modern architecture and well worth walking around – the science museum was great. The sad part for me was finding out that the aquarium, called the ‘Oceanografic’ actually housed beluga whales in tanks that weren’t big enough for them; let’s face it, whales don’t belong in tanks, and it would be impossible to build them a tank big enough to mimic the ocean. Needless to say I avoided this part of the ‘attraction’ (if you haven’t seen ‘Black Fish’ I would highly recommend watching it – it will probably change your view on going to any sea-life centre or aquarium in the future).
The City of arts and sciences
There is also a ‘bioparc’ which claims to provide natural habitats and larger enclosures for the animals, which does sound good. Again, I resisted this attraction because I really get sad seeing animals in captivity, no matter how big the cages.
Of course I spent a lot of time on the beach when not in the City – beautiful, sunny and natural. Cultural attractions are great, but for me nothing beats the sound of the waves crashing against the sandy shore, the salty air, sun and sea breeze.
In summary I would say it was a great place to visit, with lots to see and do. Food-wise, I just needed to be careful and be a bit more inventive and hunt around more for good places than I would do in London. Attraction-wise, it’s pretty obvious which ones are the ones to avoid. Although there is no bull-fighting in Valencia itself, Pamplona is somewhere where this horrible sport still takes place. If you are interested in finding out more and are against this barbaric sport, I highly recommend having a look here and taking action against it; bull-fighting is sadly very popular for tourists, so we need to create awareness and try to make it less popular; every little helps!
Thanks for reading, until next week………….