Sep 24, 2013

Travelling Vegan: Road trippin' through Italy and France

After successful sojourns through Munich and Austria, we hit the road toward France as planned. Before that we were to pass through Italy and camp for a couple of nights.

We drove towards Lake Garda stopping at a charming port town called Limone sul Garda. Limone, gets it's name from the famous Italian lemons and the people living there are proud of their heritage. All the houses have beautiful ceramic lemons adorning the top of the front doors. I read on wikipedia that Limone used to be accesible only by boat until the 1940s and it is now a very popular tourist destination. It also says that people from Limone possess a muted form of a protein that produces more of the good cholesterol and that enables them to live longer. How strange is that! I could not spot the tourists from the mutant humans, but it was worth the stop over to have lunch by the lake, walk through the narrow slopes and get lost in this wonderful commune.

Residents celebrate the lemons with these pretty ceramic pieces

Lemons of Limone

Mini Tomato varieties at a local shop

Gnocchi at a restaurant in Limone

We then ended up in Gorgonzola, Milan. Yes the very land the smelly blue cheese comes from. Our intention was to spend a day around Milan. Milan, much like Munich was a deserted city. But Munich is like that because there are fewer people. Milan was empty because more than 70% of the population was out on summer vacation. Even the restaurants and bars shut shop for the month of August. The ones that are open actually have signs that say 'We are open in August'!

I'm very confident about eating vegan in Italy because of my earlier experiences. This time was no different. I asked for the Pizzas and Pastas without the cheese and had enough gelato that would've otherwise lasted me the year. I tried a new flavour of sorbetto called ACE. ACE is a mix of Orange (arancia), Carrot (carota) and Lemon (limone) Juices named ACE not for the ingredients it is made from, but from the vitamins found in them.

ACE Gelato in Gorgonzola

Tagliatelle with Lemon

Pizza with Arugula and Mushrooms

Milan's famous Grom Gelateria has sorbettos that are vegan

After a brief night in Albenga, Italy we drove towards France. Our original route was to lead us to Provence via the Grand Canyon of Verdon. On our way to the Canyon we decided to stop at Castellane. Castellane is one of those remote ancient villages in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence area. Since it is very close to the river canyon Gorges du Verdon, it is a halt for a few tourists. The town is situated quite high up so the weather was beautiful. The houses and streets had an old world charm as if they were unchanged since the 18th century. Through the narrow cobbled streets was the town's most popular stretch with many restaurants, bars, creperies and shops selling vintage and touristy stuff.

Now in such an old, remote location the last thing I would expect to find would be vegan or vegetarian food. Mostly because I was pretty certain that people had rarely, if not ever, seen Indians there. I got a lot of "where are you from?" and "I love the colour of your skin" type conversations. To add to that we were in France, not a very friendly place for vegetarians. But to my utter disbelief, yes I was overly dramatic when I found this little place, someone had actually set up a cafe that served vegan food. I did three cartwheels in my head when I saw the word 'Végétal' on the menu. (Végétal is vegan in French).

We had dinner there and it was probably the healthiest I had eaten in a while. Healthy, vegan food in a remote town in the middle of nowhere in France! I still can't believe my luck.

Nature Café in Castellane, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

Assiette Végétal at Nature Café.

Salad Végétal at Nature Café
Onward our journey led us through the gorgeous lavender fields of Provence until we ended up at our last stop on the road trip, Marseille. I managed to find something vegan almost everywhere and even found an Organic store in Marseille selling a lot of vegan, gluten-free stuff. There are a lot of Lactose-free milks in European supermarkets. Most of them are not vegan. I have no idea how they manage to process something that is already so processed, but read labels carefully. Even the gluten-free diet has caught on in Europe and it does not always mean it is vegan because all of the gluten free breads I saw had eggs, except one brand I found in the Bio section.

Lavender fields in Provence

Roasted Aubergine and Salad with Black Olive Tapenade in Marseille

Lima is a famous vegan brand found all over France.

Vegan Sablés (Cookies) that are also gluten-free

As Vegan MoFo is still on in full swing, here are two wonderful bloggers I came across.

Luca from Italy over at The Vegan Kitchen of Dr Caligari is making vegan sweet and savoury cupcakes all this month! You have to see all of them!

Paris Vegan has a lovely recipe for Breton Pancakes that are now popular in Mumbai thanks to a restaurant. Get the recipe and make them since Buckwheat is in season now!

My next post will be about London and all the vegan things I stuffed myself with!

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