Last month, we strapped 3 mountain bikes to the top of the car, headed through the Eurotunnel and made our way to South West France for our summer vacation.
It’s the furthest south that we’ve ever travelled by car and we split the journey over two days, with a stopover at Orléans. The next morning, we continued our journey which took us over the spectacular Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world!
We hired an apartment just outside Pezanas, a beautiful historic town with lots of charm and atmosphere.
Over Spring break, my family headed to southern Spain for some quality down-time together. No phones, no Internet, just good ole’ fashioned paper books, sketch pads for the boys, and a bunch of DVDs for relaxing nights in. Through HomeAway, we’d hired an apartment in Benahavis, about 20km from Marbella. The apartment was beautiful, stylish, and had the most fantastic balcony kitted out with a comfy sofa, chairs, and stunning views.
The apartment had a fully equipped kitchen (including a dishwasher), which was perfect for us as we were planning to eat in most days. I had tucked a garlic press and cafetiere in my suitcase as these are the items I often find missing in rental apartments, but I needed have bothered this time. The kitchen had everything I could possibly need, including a whole cupboard full of spices and oils. I did take a pot of nutritional flakes with B12 with me (for sprinkling on pasta dishes) and a few energy bars, pretzels and nuts for the journey but, apart from that, we didn’t bother packing any other food items.
I loved everything about the rental apartment but I just wish I could have moved it a bit closer to the sea. We ended up spending most mornings down by the coast, so it would have been lovely to walk there rather than having to drive every day. Luckily it wasn’t too long a drive (20 minutes or so) and there was plenty of free parking space.
One of our favourite morning activities was to chill out in a café on Marbella beach or in the harbour, sipping coffees and checking out the multi million pound yachts and ‘super’ cars that seemed to be constantly cruising past the café. We spotted plenty of Ferraris, Bentleys, Porsches, and the occasional Lamborghini and Mclaren (much to Lil’ L’s delight).
One thing I’d been really looking forward to this holiday was seeing orange trees in blossom. I thought we’d have to head to Sevilla to see the trees but it turned out that they were growing everywhere! It was a bonus to see the trees laden with oranges too. I thought the fruits would come after the blossom, but some were covered in both blossom and fruits. Such a beautiful sight. And the scent was incredible!
As well as spending lots of time chilling out, we also enjoyed hiking in the beautiful countryside and sight seeing. Malaga and Granada were both fantastic cities to visit.
This is the first time that we’ve self catered on mainland Spain, so I wasn’t sure how ‘vegan friendly’ the local supermarkets would be. It turned out that they had far more selection than I ever imagined. In our local Mercadona, they had a good selection of non dairy milks, soya yogurts and chocolate desserts.
It didn’t take me long to find vegan choc ices and ice cream in their freezer cabinet too. Not only was the ice cream delicious and creamy (best choc ices I’ve ever tasted!), but they were really good value too.
We also found big tubs of hummus in the chiller cabinet which, we were relieved to find, were made the traditional way and didn’t include strange ingredients like the ‘fromage blanc’ we found in shop-bought hummus in Paris last year.
The Hipercor in Marbella had even more vegan options. There was a whole chiller cabinet filled with vegan sausages, burgers, tofu, cheese and even Spanish tortilla. The ‘Bio’ (organic) aisle also had vegan patés and all kinds of vegan (and GF friendly) goodies. There was even a dedicated British aisle filled with PG tips, Heinz baked beans and lots of Tesco own brand products.
Needless to say, we weren’t going to go hungry this holiday!
Most days, we packed a lunch to take out with us. We found seeded wholegrain mini baguettes in the bakery section of the supermarkets. often so fresh that they were still warm. We’d fill them with hummus, pate or smoked tofu, fresh tomato slices, salad leaves and enjoy them sitting on the sea wall down in Marbella or out on a hiking trail. For snacks, we had roasted nuts, dried fruit mixes or my personal favourite, roasted sunflower seeds. I especially loved this brand as they were salted to perfection.
To save time preparing evening meals, we bought packs of frozen ready chopped and grilled veggies. They were really colourful, tasty, and ready in just 5 minutes.
One of my top supermarket discoveries was Tomate Frite. I’ve consumed a lot of store-bought tomato sauces in my time and this one was by far the best I’ve ever tasted. The only ingredients it contained were tomatoes, olive oil, salt and garlic, yet it had the most incredibly rich, deep flavour. Clearly, the Spanish know how to cook their tomatoes 😉
Our evening meals were super simple affairs that didn’t require much prep. Veggie paella (using a shop-bought paella seasoning pack), pasta with grilled veggies in tomato sauce, bean salads, and stir-fried veggies (onions, courgette, peppers, mushrooms) in toasted seeded baguettes were big favourites.
We often made a double batch one night and used the leftovers the following day, combined with salad, avocado and hummus or pate-filled bread.
We did eat out on a few occasions. There were two dedicated vegan restaurant/cafés that I couldn’t wait to check out, but we also had a couple of impromptu meals. Italians are my ‘go to’ restaurants for impromptu vegan meals as I find they’re always happy to make me a cheeseless pizza. I just order the vegetarian pizza (‘vegetariana’ or ‘giardinera’) and ask for no cheese. The one I had at Da Pino Ristorante Italiano in Benahavis was especially tasty and had lots of flavourful char grilled veggies and herbs. I definitely didn’t miss the cheese!
In the bigger towns and cities, there were plenty of Indian restaurants offering a wide selections of veggie dishes. In Fuengirola we had a lovely al fresco meal consisting of poppadum and chutney, onion bhajis, tarka dhal, pilau rice and veggie biryani. As we were heading back to the car, we suddenly stumbled into an Easter procession. It was fascinating to watch. The Nazarenes (the guys in the tall pointy hats) were pretty spooky looking!
I never realised that Easter was such a big affair in Spain. The celebrations went on for days!
As I mentioned above, we also ate at two 100% vegan restaurants/cafes. Both were outstanding and definitely warrant a dedicated post, which I’ll publish next week. For now, I’ll leave you with a photo of a beautiful cloud that we saw in Ronda. It’s amazing what you spot in the sky when you’re not busy rushing around.
What does the cloud look like to you? ….
M thought it looked like a bird but, to me, it was definitely an angel 😉
Have you ever self catered as a veggie or vegan in Spain? If so, I’d love to hear your top tips.