Traveling while maintaining a plant-based diet requires a little organisation, a touch of research, and a desire to be a bit adventurous…with the best local produce always serving as your reward.
Without fail, my parents frequent their local farmers’ market every week. Rain or shine, Saturday mornings are spent in the town square, inspecting seasonal produce from organic local farmers who they know on a first-name basis. Jean, for example, sells olives he’s carefully selected from France and parts of Spain. His ‘secret mix’ is one of almonds, green olives and whole cloves of garlic, as well as a mysterious blend of spices. He enjoys a good laugh and will make you sample the contents of his entire stall upon each visit.
Their love and pursuit of whole foods was easily passed onto me, who has embraced an omnivorous diet for years. And after over a year of practicing vegetarianism, I decided to take it a step further and go vegan. There is a certain art to applying this diet to an on-the-go lifestyle…but I believe I’ve become quite good at acquiring great produce no matter where I find myself.
Prior to my trip, I always conduct a little research to find out where the local markets are, on what days they’re open, where the local health food shops are, and what supermarkets are in the area. That way, when I arrive, I can pick up a few essentials straight away.
Markets are a wonderful way to meet the locals, experience the region, and buy fresh (and sometimes unique) seasonal fruits and vegetables. My trick is to walk once around the market to eye up the best deals and best-looking produce, then decide from which stalls to buy. This saves considerable disappointment when you discover that two stalls down the old man with his beret is selling the ripest juiciest peaches for half the price you just bought yours (I learned the hard way!)
With a basket filled with golden apricots, a couple of warm baguettes, lettuces, fresh basil (for pesto!), the ripest tomatoes you’ll ever find, and a whole tray of nectarines, I declared myself happy and sat down in the dappled light under a big leafy tree for a well-earned espresso at the local café, watching the locals go by with their own overflowing baskets.
When in France, always pick up a bunch of purple garlic, and ask around for the best bakery in town. Bread is a religion around here — never settle for a baguette that makes you feel less than the happiest person in the world. Also, a little trick I’ve learned this year — if you ask for a ‘croissant patissier’ or a ‘croissant ordinaire‘ you’ll be served a vegan croissant made with margarine instead of butter! You’re more than welcome.
* Research before you leave. Locate markets, health food shops, supermarkets and restaurants with vegan options (the HappyCow app is a great tool!)
* Pack an easy-to-transport meal and snacks for your travel day. Remember — no liquids if you’re flying! Hummus and carrots, granola bars, dried fruit and nuts, grain salads or simple sandwiches are my go-to picks. Nothing worse than being hangry and stuck on a plane.
* Be adventurous. Go out of your way to find new places to eat, wake up early to go to the market, chat to locals, try new ingredients. You will experience your destination in a whole new way, I promise!
Photos and words by Tania Gault.