Travelling Vegan: Amsterdam

September 1, 2009

Amsterdam. City of great culture and architecture, omni-present canals and bikes, the Red Light District and the Rijksmuseum, and food, food, food. Oh, and cheese.

The last few times I’ve visited Amsterdam bakeries and steakhouses beckoned from every corner, waffles glistening with chocolate of every shade and sprinkles of every colour, doused in sugar or steeped in caramel, strawberries adorning their sweet lattices, so I wondered how I’d fare for convenience food what with having to eschew the delicious crisp yet chewy with just the right amount of sugar waffle option. Oh, and cheese.

We camped this time, at Zeeburg, which I recommend most highly, so there was no real option to cook food. As such, we turned to Albert Heijn for succour. There is one on practically every corner, and they must have sprung up in the last year or so, because neither I not Holly (my other Amsterdam frequenter) remember there being quite so many. Still, good for us!

One day, I swear I will travel vegan and attempt to eat properly, but as it is, we all survived on a diet of tigerbread (and they do wholemeal tigerbread in Holland!), hummus and crisps. I also had an apple a day, and popcorn. Lots of delicious popcorn. The Albert Heijn ‘extra puur chocolade’ with 72% cacao mentions nowhere that it contains milk, so I stocked up on that too at 82 cents a bar. As you can see in the photo below, there was also a large array of pre-packed salads. For some reason I didn’t think to buy one, but they’re there, they’re vegan, and they’re convenient.


As for places to eat, there were plenty. Before I left I checked out Veggie Place and Happy Cow, making a list of around eighteen places that looked good, including a couple of health food shops. While I was there we managed to make it to Bolhoed on the Prinsengracht, which deserves, and will get, its own post. For sheer convenience, there is a Falafel place in every district. There are five Maoz Falafel places in Amsterdam, and having not come across one before, I have to say they’re pretty good. It was 4€ for quite a hefty serving, but the best part is the salad bar. (Isn’t it always?) We didn’t take full advantage, I pushed some cucumber and cous-cous in the nooks between falafel and pita before we rushed for our tram, but there was a couple in there who were clearly experts. They would take a couple of bites of their pita, revealing new crevices which were perfect for spooning a little more taziki into, or tucking some more lettuce around, then sit down, take a couple more bites, and repeat. You probably can’t get away with this so much when it’s busy, but we were there around ten or eleven in the evening.

For breakfast the next day, we ended up at the Soup Kitchen and had Sweet Potato soup. After checking the website just now, I realise that it probably wasn’t even vegetarian, but it came with soft white bread and was damn tasty. Perhaps I should learn to say ‘Is there milk in this?’ as well as ‘Thank you’ when I travel now. (Bedanke, by the way.)


I think three days is probably an adequate amount of time to survive on hummus and crisp sandwiches, and if you have a little more money than we did (and a tin-opener, or camping stove…) then Amsterdam does cater well to vegetarians, and vegans, alike.

At the end of this month I’m going to Corsica with my family, and I imagine it will be quite interesting to see if they appreciate my vegan input. We are expected, by my Mother, to buy and cook our own food, so I don’t think it will impact too much on the family table, as it were, but they also like us to all eat together. Watch this space!



InsteadOf Travelling

August 7, 2009


#Speak French for a day. If no-one understands you, talk louder and slower. Try hand gestures. If you don’t speak any French, an accent and confused frown will do just as well.

#Grab a bike and a tent. Cycle ‘til it gets dark. Camp. Eat beans cooked on a camp stove.

#Rent a boat! Local bay, local river, local lake. Or a pedalo.

# Hang around in coach stations (or train stations, bus stations – but they get funny about it in airports.)


#Sleep in a car. Or park. Or at the beach. Or in a cave.

#Watch German TV.

#Send postcards from your hometown.


#Let a foreigner surf on your sofa. It’s not quite staying in a hostel, but waking up to a different language in your kitchen never gets old.

#Visit an overpriced tourist attraction at home. Latch onto a foreign tour group.

#Bribe a corrupt official at your nearest border.

#Paint a mural of a desert island on your bedroom wall.

#Follow a local tourist trail, one signpost after the other.

#Nap in a hammock.


#Get tourists to take photos of you in front of the local Cathedral/City Walls/giant ball of wool.

#Wear a bikini, or boardshorts, everywhere.

#Go barefoot as much as possible.

#Drink cocktails on the veranda. (Or personal equivalent.)

#Check out local events; beer and/or music festivals, street carnivals, church fetes, funfairs, battle re-enactments, craft fayres, food fayres (my favourite), open air theatre, Dickens Land…

#Ride a donkey.

#See how far you can get for a tenner.

#Find your nearest outdoor pool. Bonus points if you manage a tan.

#Head to your nearest beach location. (Bonus points if you miss the last bus home and end up stranded.)


#Hitchhike. (Remember your towel.)

#Sit in a park all day, chatting to strangers.

#Eat only bread, cheese and beans for three days.

#Get heatstroke. Or dysentery. I hear dengue’s popular at the moment too.


Travelling Vegan: Brighton

July 24, 2009


This weekend I jambled up to Brighton for a few days to hang out with James, do some juggling and see the sights. It was also my first extended period away from my cupboard full of seeds and fridge full of tofu so I wasn’t sure if I would manage to eat incredibly well while I was away (and yes, that was my first thought after deciding to go) but hey, I survived.

A couple of factors were pretty handy, the first being that James has no food in the house, so vegan or not, I would have needed to buy food if I wanted to eat. Also, he didn’t have to worry about cooking for me, because he doesn’t worry about cooking. The second factor is that James’ housemate Jack is vegan, and he made a tasty dinner the first night I was there, so we bonded about the awesomeness of kale and I discovered that chard looks like rhubarb.

Since I had to buy food anyway, as soon as I arrived (‘Hi, where’s the nearest supermaket? Nice to see you yeah, back in a sec!’) I dashed around the corner and panic bought salad, hummus, a potato and some beans. When I had calmed down appropriately enough to go to Sainsburys, I nabbed some tofu and chopped tomatoes. Bam. Salad and hummus sandwiches for lunch, tofu bolognaise for dinner. (I also went a bit mental and bought all the gear for tasty double chocolate cookies – flour, butter, sugar and chocolate. Foolish…but oh so good.) I’m pretty sure that only eating plant food is cheaper than if I’d craved cheese or meat, though the cookie ingredients did set me back a bit. And the Coppella apple juice. Sweet as sin, really. Delicious.

Easy enough so far. However, I hadn’t gone to Brighton just for the hell of it, I did some work while I was there as well. This work involves driving the length of the country to either perform with fire or teach kids to juggle, usually lasting all day or at least over one meal time. Buying vegan food on the road is inconvenient to say the least, so I made up some hummus and salad sandwiches – which totally failed to satiate me. Grr! Argh! Hunger! Vegan Jack bought some beans and crisps though, which we had in white baps. Good sandwich. He said he ate a lot of that sort of food when he was travelling, then proceeded to drink the beans. Delightful. But filling, yes. I nearly faltered in my resolve when we ended up at a village fayre, where all around was locally sourced meat and cheese and not a vegan option in sight – unless I wanted to buy a whole box full of veg. It was close…I had a spring roll and complained about being hungry for about three hours. Foolish self. Had I been more prepared, I would have knocked together a pasta salad and taken a couple of apples. Of course, not being at home made it all the harder to pre-prepare for a big day out.

I was always under the impression that Brighton was something of a Mecca for vegans, proved by my quick search of vegan cafes coming up with about seven places on the sea front that are completely meat free, as well as the usual ‘this pub does nut roast and is therefore veggie friendly, yeah?’ places. I made it an aim to check out Infinity Cafe and RedVeg and though time constraints curtailed my visit, we did get lunch from RedVeg; a proper fast food place serving falafel, veggie burgers and hotdogs, bean wraps and frrrries. I had falafel (I always seem to have falafel…) and James had a chilli burger. The falafel was good, if quite onion-y and, according to my incredibly carnivorous friend, the burger was passable too. If you’re lost in Brighton, afraid of all the brightly coloured omnivores, then RedVeg is a great little place to hide and munch on some chickpeas while reading all the walls and picking up some of the local scene mags lying around. You can find it on Gardner Street, in the hippy-frippery area. Next time, I’m going to hit up Infinity Cafe and also a veg*n pub we walked past everyday, which I believe is called the William IV.

Despite Jack’s vegan dinners and my salad sandwiches, I didn’t eat half enough over the four days and started feeling quite grumpy and tired towards the end. Before I went vegetarian, I used to intersperse days of eating junk with a day of not eating (because I was lazy, more than anything) and not feel any ill effects (probably because I was still digesting all the junk in my system!) but my body has now grown used to being well-fed every day and makes its demands heard.

Next time, I think it would be good to make a giant saucepan full of some pasta and tofu based dish which can be eaten over a couple of days, buy more snack fruits, and take my seeds with me for salads. I missed my seeds.

In a month or so I ought to be headed to Amsterdam, so we’ll see how I fare with a probable case of the munchies, no kitchen (no fridge, no seeds, no tofu) and a city full of waffle houses…mmm, waffles.

Anyone out there travelled vegan? How did you find it?


Vegan Brighton
-Being Vegan in Brighton.
Eating Out in vegan Brighton.

Travelling Fiction

July 2, 2009


The end of University, and everyone hops on a plane or into a car and floats away to Istanbul, Morrocco, Freedom Festival…anywhere but here. Everyone but me. I was happy to be staying here this summer, working and writing, until it seemed as though the contract on the new place might not go through. Suddenly I was Back-Up Plan Girl and decided that I would dump my stuff at my Mum’s and head to Europe.
Now we’re all moved in safely and happily (Yay!) …and I really want to be on a cramped coach for ten hours jolting towards the mountains. Argh! But I can’t. So instead of sampling the exotic delights of faraway countries, I’m going to put together a good time in England. It can be done! Just take my advice (‘Here, just a bite of this apple, girl…’) and you will no longer be jealous of those wandering fools!
I plan to do lots of travel reading and up my research of volunteering in Peru. Every penny I’m not spending in Amsterdam right now is going towards that. But…I want to go now!

First in the series: books on travel! Vicarious adventures are second only to the real thing. Yeah. If we can’t be there, we can at least hover over their shoulder as they outrun the police in Mexico, flag down spaceships with towels and sail between sea monsters and whirlpools.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Naturally. If you’ve only seen the film, then you’re in for a treat. It’s a trilogy of five, spanning the entire space career of Dent, Arthur Dent as he discovers how to erect a Somebody Else’s Problem field, learns to fly and visits the creator’s message to the Universe. Oh, and there’s Marvin, the Paranoid Android.

On The Road– Jack Kerouac

Grab your best mate, get in a car, and drive. Or read about it in Kerouac’s inimitable style. Upon arriving home, he typed the whole thing out on his typewriter, taping the pages together so he wouldn’t have to stop. (Of course, then his dog ate some of it…) The pace is frantic, energetic and enough to get you standing up to the man. Whatever your reasons for staying home this summer are…they will seem a lot less important after reading this novel. (Warning: May cause you to quite your job and become an international bum. I’m just saying.)

The Odyssey– Homer

While there is a lot of debate about who Homer was and if anyone can truly have ‘written’ The Odyssey, it’s still an epic worth perusing. Odysseus is the original backpacker (though, he did have his own boat for some of it) jamming around the Aegean, just trying to make it back to his spouse…while hanging out with Calypso and Circe for not insignificant amounts of time (nudge nudge). Along the way he loses most of his crew to drugs, blags his way into the court of a king and builds his own boat. Valid lessons for any would-be traveler to learn.

The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test– Tom Wolfe

Not so much a travelling book as taking an extended trip…The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test broadened my horizons considerably. All the thrill of the road is encapsulated in the Furthur Bus’s unique aesthetic, perfect for anyone wanting to put the foot to floor and fly off wherever the road takes them.

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

Gaiman really gets under the skin of London in this informative guide to the Underground System. Follow Richard Mayhew as he navigates sewers, Knight’s Bridge and Earl’s Court as never seen before. What is so terrible about the Blackfriars? Why does Angel get his own tube station? Are there shepherds in Shepherd’s Bush? Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about London, but been afraid to ask, is answered for you in this twist on a tourist leaflet.

I’m not going travelling this summer (wah, wah) but will be getting started on Neverwhere very soon. I’ve only read On the Road by Kerouac (and loved it enough to get a quote tattooed from it) but always meant to read more; I plan to order Dharma Bums soon. When I say I’m not going travelling, I’m still going on ‘holiday’. We plan to head to Brighton for a couple of days at the end of July, and Amsterdam at the end of August. Then I’m jetting off to Corsica in September. Ah, it’s a hard life. I’m really looking forward to it!