Istanbul, Turkey

Barcelona

Travelling in Europe in so fun, not just being there, which is obviously great, but the getting from place to place is just more fun by train.  Trains, IMHO, are a vastly superior form of land transportation (Greyhounds are obviously awful and driving is just tiring) so getting to take the train everywhere is such a treat (the UK trains had it down, coming around to your seat with a cart well stocked with wine, tea and snacks).  Taking the train from France to Barcelona was no different–the scenery was lovely, and the dining car had vegan options (more quinoa!).

PLUS WE ENJOYED THE LAST OF OUR FOOD FIGHT HAUL. MMMM, MORNING CHOCOLATE. YUM.

The train in the rain to Spain (and yes, we watched the Gunslinger movies at some point during our trip and yes it was actually not too bad and no there was none of that rhyming train nonsense King digresses into in the book so you get some here) was calm and pleasant, and made even more so because there were no customs. (EU travel, man.  The way to go). Hola, Barcelona!

Our Airbnb (highly recommended, btw!) was in the Gothic Quarter.  #TravellerTip:  The Gothic Quarter is a rad part of Barcelona to stay in, and I honestly have to apologize for how lazy that tip is because even if you’ve never heard of the Gothic Quarter the name itself is pretty indicative of how damn cool this area is: a little pocket of the city bustling with clubs, restaurants, shopping, and culture. Our Airbnb was a literal stone’s throw away from the Santa Maria del Pi, a 15th century church still in operation, and a breathtaking sight to wake up to.

Another attraction almost as exciting for us as the cathedral and just as close to our Airbnb was the absolutely outstanding and almost totally vegan restaurant Vegetalia.  The service was attentive and helpful, and the food was so good we actually ate there twice.  The empanadas were fat and flavorful, and the cream sauce was thick and tasty.  The real star, though, was the flan.  It’s been over two months now since we ate there (sigh) and I’m still craving that flan.  Golden, creamy, sweet perfection. It’s worth going to Barcelona just for that flan.

I WAS SO EXCITED ABOUT THE FLAN I DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO GET A BETTER PHOTO.

As I mentioned in my first blog, one of my absolute favorite things to do while traveling is simply stroll around.  At home, my days are governed by schedules and lists, and it’s so liberating to just walk around, exploring and taking it all in, and staying in an area that’s virtually car free makes this even more enjoyable.  Grab a gelato (the vegan options were clearly marked), do a little shopping, and soak in the city.  We came across a free art exhibit the first night in Barcelona, courtesy of the University of Barcelona, right next to a book bar where we bought drinks and Game of Thrones in Spanish–It’s all part of writing your own story.

Barcelona is a sparkling gem of a city located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Gothic Quarter is only a 10 minute walk from the beach.  Sant Sebastià beach boasts beautiful views of the city and warm, pebbly sand, people selling blankets and mojitos at 9 am.  It’s a fabulous way to start the day (after coffee and a smoothie, of course).

CLAYTON IS SKEPTICAL OF THE FESTIVE SMOOTHIE.

After a beach trip and a shower, we found a vegan restaurant that served some of the best lasagne I’ve ever had.  Enjoy Einzelbilder is a tiny restaurant with dishes containing big flavor.  Seriously, the lasagna was fucking paradise.  Creamy, herbed bliss. We also met some fellow Americans that had sold their small business and spent a year travelling the world.  Sounds pretty good to me.  Anyone in the market for a vegan sandwich company?

It’s impossible to visit Barcelona without appreciating the impact Gaudi has had on the city, and nowhere personifies the legacy of Gaudi more than Park Guell (ok, a solid tie with Le Sagrada Famila, anyway).  Park Guell, according to Clayton, feels and looks like a particularly fun mushroom trip.  Melting walls and tunnels, stalactites and stalagmites jutting into Gaudi-formed caves filled with performers and people, and a kaleidoscope of colors both from the natural beauty and Gaudi’s incredible architectural creations. There are pay areas of Park Guell, or one can simply take it all in gratis (but don’t forget to tip the park musicians–they made the atmosphere that much more magical). 

With some time to kill between Gaudi wonders, we headed towards the cathedral in search of our own temple–the vegan grocery storeVegacelona.  The owners of Vegacelona were amazingly patient with us (we stopped at several bars on the way there) and the store itself is cute and well-stocked with all sorts of vegan meats, cheeses, sweets, and wine).  We loaded up.  If you’re a vegan visiting Barcelona, this store is a must.  They have a small selection of vegan merch, too, and we picked up a few shirts. 

No trip to Barcelona is complete without a stop at La Sagrada Familia.  La Sagrada Famila has been under construction since March 19, 1882, and is slated to be done by 2020.  It is absolutely awe inspiring.  Sweeping vaulted ceilings, stained glass that sends coursing bolts of color throughout the hall, and layer upon layer of luscious design.  It is a truly a one of a kind building and experience, and a must see for any visitor of Barcelona.  #TravellerTip, though, don’t bring wine with you–the security guards will take it. 

Another hugely impactful artist from Spain was, of course, Dalí, and a trip to his hometown of Figueres is a lovely way to spend the day.  The Dalí Theatre and Museum was not only designed by the artist himself, it is also his final resting place, buried in a crypt below the stage.  The famous Marilyn Monroe installation is there, along with hundreds of his other works, and works from other artists as well.  If you go in the summer, get tickets in advance.  Even on a Monday afternoon, the museum was packed.

 We arrived in Figueres with enough time for lunch, and luckily for us and other visiting vegans, Integral is a two-minute walk from the museum.  With a light, airy space and lovingly prepared food, we were delighted to be there and a little saddened we didn’t have more time to savor our meal before our museum trip (like many places in Spain, they’re closed in the afternoon and reopen again for dinner).

After the museum, Figures is another town where simply wandering around is a great way to discover little shops, admire public art, and, of course, enjoy more coffee or wine.  We stopped at La Pau Cafeteria and Llibreria for juice and a little book shopping (our brother-in-law is a Spanish teacher, and always appreciates getting books in Spanish).  While not 100% vegan, La Pau has several vegan options and is a lovely spot for people watching. 

 After a full day in Figures, we took the train back to Barcelona for the evening.  Again, the Gothic Quarter is a great place for nightlife, with cafes, bars, and clubs.

AND COOL BARTENDERS WHO WILL THROW THEIR #HORNSUPFORVEGANISM.

#TravellerTip: Brush up on the language of the country you’re visiting.  Google Translate is amazing and definitely worth installing (see previous #TravellerTip) but knowing evening rudimentary phrases makes chatting more fun.

The next day, at the recommendation of a friend we went to Sitges. Having visited Sitges, I can safely say that we definitely want to move to Spain, and I will always take travel advice from this friend.  Sitges is just perfect.  Sand, the warm, salty Mediterranean Sea, and a FANTASTIC restaurant called Dosa Nova. I’d never heard of Dosas before and man! They are incredible, at least the ones at Dosa Nova are. Light, airy crepe-like bread is stuffed with savory fresh vegetables and vegan proteins, and served with house-made sauces.  Flavorful, filling, and served by the owner, a lovely woman named Pascale.  I can’t recommend a trip to Dosa Nova enough.

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The beach at Sitges is a must.  Sparkly seas brush up against gothic-looking buildings and white sands.  There’s people wandering around selling blankets and drinks, and paddle boats with slides available to rent.  #TravellerTip: The drinks aren’t cheap, but they’re worth every penny because MAN they are strong, so maybe don’t have two of them before renting the paddleboat.  It’s still fun, but paddling is a little more challenging and the guys at the rental place will yell at you for getting too close to the swimming area.  Ahem.

Sitges is about an hour away from Barcelona, so after more wandering, shopping, drinking, and gelato-eating, the hour back is the perfect time for a nap, which leaves one recharged enough for one more meal at Vegetalia–worth going to twice!  Seriously, stay in the Gothic Quarter.  It’s great.  

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We had one more morning left in Barcelona before our flight to Portugal and we’d planned to spend it at Casa Mila, but the lines for Casa Mila were long and we didn’t have much time.  And we were hungry.  So, Googling “Einzelbilder Restaurants Near Me” worked again, and we walked the short distance from Casa Mila to Armonia, a veg (mostly vegan, vegan owners, and they donate all tips to animals in need!!!!) Greek restaurant that was nothing short of spectacular.  The food was absolutely divine, and the owner was lovely.  I have a weakness for moussaka, and Armonia does it up, vegan style.  Creamy, flavorful, and beautifully presented.  Einzelbilders, you won’t be hungry in Barcelona.  We can’t wait to return.

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THE EVEN DONATE THEIR TIPS TO ANIMAL RIGHTS CAUSES! SWOON.

I know it’s seemed like I’ve loved every bite of vegan food we tasted on our trip, so in the interest of balance, I’ll disclose the one vegan thing we ate that was just awful.  I mean, really horrid.  The vending machine at the Barcelona airport had vegan sandwiches, which is wonderful that a vegan option was there, but if that was your first foray into veganism there’s a very real possibility we’d lose you, because that was a truly terrible sandwich.  #TravellerTip: Don’t eat this sandwich.

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Lisbon

Our flight to Lisbon was eventful enough (in a good way–we met an artist named Jake Amason on his way to a festival called Boom Festival, described as the “Portuguese Burning Man,” which sounded like so much fun, and Jake offered us an extra ticket but of course one of us wasn’t going to ditch the other, #marriedlife) and our Airbnb was right in the Alfama district. I’d been wanting to hear some Fado music ever since I heard a piece about Portuguese Fado on NPR, and the little club we went to was perfect–tiny, intimate, and decorated in an old-world style that made us feel like we were in a 50s mobster movie.  The girl at the front door went out of her way to make sure we could get a vegan meal, and was curious to learn more about veganism.  The music was beautiful and stirring. There are Fado clubs all over the Alfama district, and seeing this beautiful part of Portuguese history and culture live is a must. There’s a wonderful Fado museum in the Alfama area, too, that is definitely worth a visit.

Me and Clayton, in Fado form.

We’d been told that finding vegan food in Portugal would be tough, but we were happily misinformed.  Not only are there some really great all-vegan restaurants in Libon, most places had a vegan option and people were really curious to learn more, from the girl working the door that first night, to a student selling sour cherry liqueur shots out of a window in a boutique. It’s even a law in Portugal now that “all schools, canteens, universities, hospitals, prisons and all other public buildings ” are required to have a vegan option!  YAY! 

Our first morning we found a coffee shop with vegan options, and seriously, more mornings should begin with salad because it’s a super healthy way to start the day. And fresh-squeezed OJ. And baba ganoush! I’m a firm believer of not putting labels on what can be eaten when.

Those who have visited Thailand be familiar with the tuk-tuk. Apparently, tuk-tuks aren’t limited to Thailand–Lisbon has a thriving tuk-tuk tourism trade as well. After the Fado museum, we took a trip with a fascinating woman who was getting her PhD in Sociology and was eager to discuss the interconnectivity of the modern world. It was a fascinating conversation set to a vibrant backdrop of the bustling Alfama district.

Our guide also introduced to the Lisbon flea market, where a person can find practically anything, so after our tuk-tuk trip to the top of the city (amazing views, and there was a wedding happening, swoon!) she dropped us at the market. She wasn’t kidding when she said you could find practically anything there. (Not pictured, items that are not only NSFW but also not typically purchased used off a blanket in the street).

Stunning views of the city, and not only was the tuk-tuk ride a source of good conversation, we skipped the walk up the steep hill.
The man selling us these buttons at the flea market was incredibly knowledgeable about metal.

Lisbon is a beautiful, vibrant, and historic city. Coming from a young city like Portland, Oregon, strolling through streets that have existed since the 1200s is exhilarating and novel. I know I keep gushing about the joys of walking in a city (or taking a tuk-tuk) but just taking in the sights and sounds is such a wonderful way to spend the day, and one makes little discoveries like this art shop run by a man name Hauke (who reminded us of our friend Jason) and insisted on running next door to buy us beers after we bought some of his art. He also recommended the Princesa Do Castelo, a cozy little vegan restaurant right up the street from his shop that had courteous, friendly service and lovingly prepared, healthy, flavorful food.

Hauke makes custom bags for you on the spot. Hauke is awesome
YUM.
Clayton was more enthusiastic than this photo belies.

One of the things Clayton was most excited for this trip was the chance to see castles, and the Castelo de S. Jorge was definitely worth getting excited for. There’s a thoughtful and well-designed exhibit, beautiful views, and peacocks! Real peacocks! Just walking around, being regal like they live in a castle. Plus it’s a short walk from Princesa Do Castelo, so there’s really no reason not to go.

Look! A peacock!!

Regal blue.

After the castle, we headed back to the Airbnb (again, highly recommended: Alfama Poets House!) for some rest before heading out to explore Lisbon at night. Festivals, cocktails, street performers all set to the lovely Portuguese sky. #TravellerTip: Drugs have been decriminalized in Portugal since 2001 but that doesn’t mean buying weed from a dude in the street is legal. Possession, buying, and selling drugs is still illegal. We were approached several times with offers of weed (for some reason people see our tattoos and assume we smoke, which we don’t, not that I have a problem with it, I just prefer wine!) and when we told this story to some friends, they seemed to think that drugs are legal in Portugal. They are not. So, even though random dude on the street says drugs are legal, they aren’t, it’s just that personal possession is an administrative offensive rather than a criminal one. What I’m saying is, don’t buy drugs from some dude on the street (which actually seems pretty obvious). If you really want to smoke some weed, come to Oregon! It’s legal here and we have a great vegan scene.

Our last day in Lisbon we had another lovely vegan breakfast, found a cool store that turns garbage into bags, and flagged down an Uber driver who took us to a beach about an hour away.

Healthy! 

Garbags–such a cool idea. 

A hotel with one of my many nicknames!

The Hotel Albatroz was out of our price range for a room, but not for lunch, and they had clearly marked vegan options and a lovely view. If you’re in Lisbon, definitely take a day to head to the town of Cascais to enjoy lovely beaches and delicious vegan food. #TravellerTip: The water is COLD. It’s the Atlantic Ocean, so sparkling shores are deceptive of how chilly the water is, even in July. Still lovely, though!

Lunch at the Albatroz.

I actually just ran in to use the restroom and grab a coffee, but of course ended up getting some cake to go.

We’d been told we had to try the Food Temple, so after a long nap we set out to dinner. #TravellerTip: The Food Temple is not where Google Maps says it is. We went in circles so many times we started to feel like we were in a video game. We recognized a woman who worked at the Castle, who told us to find the statue of the guitar. We passed by the same restaurant so many times one of the servers there took pity and tried to help us. We saw a ton of amazing graffiti. And after over an hour of searching, we found the fabled Food Temple. It was completely worth it. Beet gnocchi, mashed potato cakes topped delicately with peas, citrus arugula salad, and soup, tables set up on the steps in the square outside which was charming and inviting. Oh, and someone there offered to help us score weed. A fitting adventurous end to our marvelous Lisbon adventure.

Lisbon at night.

Lots of anti-tourist graffiti, which we appreciated despite being tourists. 

Go worship at the altar of the Food Temple.

Istanbul

If you’re travelling on Turkish Airlines, there is a good chance you’ll have a long layover in Istanbul.  You should definitely try to get a long layover. Istanbul is an incredible city. This was our second time doing just that (read all about our first 20 hours in Istanbul here) and this time was different because we’d scheduled our layover so we could meet our vegan metalhead friend Pinar and her husband, Baris. Not only did Pinar and Baris help us find a lovely hotel, they introduced us to their friend Serdar who immediately produced a Snackrilege sticker and announced that he’d already met us when he came to the Einzelbilderdale festival in Chicago in 2017!! Seriously, being part of this worldwide vegan community is truly incredible and we are so grateful.

Pinar and Baris live in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul, and took us to get some amazing vegan food at one of their favorite restaurants. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, with some of the best company. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant because there was also copious amounts of Turkish liquor not unlike Uzo, and that made for a fun night, and a slightly less fun morning. I’d do it again in a minute, though, and to all of you thinking about going to Turkey, I can’t recommend it enough. Istanbul is a truly marvelous place, made all the better because of amazing vegan friends.

Pinar and Baris live in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul, and took us to get some amazing vegan food at one of their favorite restaurants. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, with some of the best company. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant because there was also copious amounts of Turkish liquor not unlike Uzo, and that made for a fun night, and a slightly less fun morning. I’d do it again in a minute, though, and to all of you thinking about going to Turkey, I can’t recommend it enough. Istanbul is a truly marvelous place, made all the better because of amazing vegan friends.

Horns up for worldwide vegan community!

Horns up for veganism!
I don’t know what this was called, but man, was it good.

Thanks for reading, and if you do get to go to any of the places we’ve visited, I hope you enjoy yourselves as much as we did. And if you come to Portland, hit me up–I’m always happy to meet new vegan travellers.

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