A Vegan In Paris!
Updated: Jun 30, 2018
France is the land of champagne, croissants, wine, cheese, couture, macarons, eclairs, and so much more! Paris is the city of light. It is the fashion capital of the world. I challenge you not to fall in love with Paris. I have been to Paris before, but never with a significant other.
This trip was also my first time being a vegan in Paris. Veganism has certainly caught on all over the world, but French cuisine heavily relies on butter and cream, even in vegetable dishes, so I didn't know what to expect.
I booked our flight through Kiwi.com, (only $ 681.82 for each flight!) which is one of my favorite ways to search for flights. They allow you so many options and they actually search every possible flight scenario, not just flights that operate on the same airlines. this means that you get the cheapest possible bookings, but can also be a nightmare when you have a connection, so always be mindful that you leave yourself plenty of time to connect because many are in different terminals. The airline we flew was Norweigian, which I had never flown on, but I never think twice about booking a European airline. In my experience, every airline that isn't based in America has incredible food, service, and entertainment. Norweigian changed that for me.
Evidently, Norwegian is a budget airline. This means that basic conveniences like water, blankets, meals, things that are always included on long international flights, are not included on these flights. Not only that, but you have to pay to check your bag. Two people flying to Paris, checking one bag cost us almost $100! You aren't even allowed a purse and a carry-on bag. I'm not making this shit up. I unpacked our entire suitcase, threw away things that I wasn't in need of, and shoved my purse inside in order to avoid paying more fees. I know, I am ridiculously stubborn. It wasn't the price, it was the principle! It's outrageous to not allow passengers to bring a carry-on and a purse on a 9 hour flight! Also, the lady checking me in was a total bitch, so that played a role too. Finally, we checked in and moved towards the gate. This particular terminal in JFK had almost no dining options. Not even a Chili's! There was a small Turkish coffee stand with gozleme (it's like a thin, Turkish flatbread) and the person making then said that they could be made vegan, so we had him add spinach to them and devoured these warm blanket-like dough. This would be the last warm meal we would have before Paris.
We landed in Paris and the fog was so thick that we could barely see to the end of our wings. We hailed a taxi and went to the hotel to check-in.
I booked our hotel through Hotels.com ($135.48/night) which is a favorite site of mine because you collect points and every 10th stay is FREE. I really like free things and I'm sure that you do too. We booked "Hotel Les Bulles de Paris" ( https://www.lesbullesdeparis.com ), a champagne themed hotel near Notre Dame in the Latin District (If you are able to stay in the Latin district while in Paris, do it! It's so lively and fun! The streets are packed with international restaurants, shops, & markets, bustling with all walks of life. Every corner we turned down was exciting!). We were early for check-in but the staff was extremely friendly and we were able to go to our room to drop our bags off anyways.
After dropping our bags, we went to find food, of course! Coincidentally, there was a vegan cafe called, "Vegan Folies" ( http://veganfolies.fr ) less than a mile away. It was uphill, away from Notre Dame. The French word for vegan is "vegetalien" but vegetarian is "vegetarian". They are so similar!! I saw a quiche and it looked like eggs but after much talk, eventually I understood that the entire cafe was vegan. Off to a good start! The cafe didn't have many options, but we did order a slice of eggless quiche, a sandwich, and vegan chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. I made that sandwich my bitch. It was amazing!!! I had forgotten how delicious French bread was. And the ingredients were so simple; fresh arugula, tomatoes, smoked red peppers, did I mention the bread? Delectable.
Ian and I decided to walk on, as we had no plans. We walked through a merchant district with little shops, there were bookstores, clothing stores, fromageries, fish mongers, patisseries, wine shops, cafes. It was fascinating to see because in America, we're all about convenience. We want to get our oil changed while we shop for coconuts and tampons all in the same building! Each one of these stores was for one thing. If you want bread, you go to the bakery. You need lotion? You go to the chemist. We take the convenience for granted at home, but I do love the old world nostalgia in each shop having it's own specialty.
We stopped at a little cafe, nestled against the bottom of a hill with a preening fountain spritzing water in the center of the roundabout. Ian had a coffee and I sipped jasmine tea (my favorite). When I was a child, we went to Disney World every year for my birthday. We always had to go to Epcot because, even though it was educational (less rides), it had "Paris". Paris was everything that I wanted. One year, my parents allowed me to pick out this small bottle of perfume from one of the little Parisian shops at Epcot. It was Jasmin and I loved it so much that I never wore it. I kept it in my jewelry box for years, dreaming of what it would be like to see the real Paris one day, imagining the whole city smelling like jasmine flowers, seeing myself eating delicate French pastries, walking the cobbled roads full of couture shops... Paris was the one place that I had always wanted to go but it took me years of traveling before I got there.
As Ian and I walked back to the hotel, we quite literally ran into the Pantheon (you read that correctly. Ask Louis XV why he's architecturally uncreative) and stopped for pictures there. We then realized that we were lost. Paris is not like most major cities. Cities like New York, for example have a grid system. If you walk one block in the wrong direction, you know it and can correct yourself. Paris is designed like a spiderweb, meaning that the streets are impossibly intermingled and it's a giant clusterfuck if you get lost. We spent the entire trip like this, thinking that we could handle walking just a couple blocks away and then never being able to recover to the original spot. Perpetually lost! According to my phone, we averaged walking around 11 miles a day in Paris!
The following day, Ian and I decide to explore the city on foot. Looking at a map, it seemed like everything we wanted to see was within walking distance. Notre Dame Cathedral was the closest tourist destination. We had no intention of going inside because the lines were insanely long every time we walked by, but as we walked towards the entrance, we saw that there was literally no line at all! Obviously, we went inside. It is free to go inside Notre Dame Cathedral and I'm all about that. Of course, it is much busier on the inside, but Ian and I walk around, taking in all of the stunning art work, the bejeweled sun beams cascading from the stained glass windows, impossibly dazzling in the afternoon sun. I take more pictures than I'll ever need to and there is no point in any of them because the beauty of the cathedral, the ornate carvings, oil-works, the hum of prayers in different languages, low glow of melting candles, none of this can ever be photographed in a way that would do it justice. I want to take the perfect picture so that I can share this place with the people I care about (like you), but you really have to experience it firsthand.
We leave the cathedral, and head towards the Louvre. It's quite close and an easy walk if you're physically fit. I'm sure that I don't need to tell you about the Louvre. It's an art museum that used to be a royal palace. It holds some of the world's most coveted art work like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. The line is long, but my husband is an artist and loves every art museum that he comes across, so it was worth the wait for us. Once inside, you go downstairs. In the main lobby, you are actually looking up, through the glass of the iconic Louvre pyramid. There are sections inside dedicated to different genres. I think it's admirale to transition the palace into an art museum, but holy shit, it is confusing inside! We ran into the same dead end at least three times and then there is no easy exit, just endless corridors upon corridors, insert random stairwell, add more corridors. It's narrow, misleading, and stressful, especially when it's packed full of people, which it inevitably always is. Once you get past the fact that you have no clue where you are, the art is of course, breathtaking. There are extraordinary pieces unlike anything that I have ever seen, and I used to live next to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brisih Museum. We could have spent days there, but I was hungry and that takes precedence, so we walked on.
As soon as you exit the Louvre, you see a small Arc du Triumph. This is identical to the full one, just a smaller version with less traffic around it. Moving forward, you enter the "Jardin des Tuileries" which is a beautiful garden full of manicured shrubbery, sparkling fountains, statues both modern and traditional, and little ice cream carts. We grabbed a scoop of passion fruit sorbet and took a seat in front of a fountain. My feet were tired. We finished our treat and decided to march on to lunch. We passed many restaurants but vegan options were scarce. We were in tourist central, champs elysse. Looking around, we saw Burger King, KFC, Louis Vuitton, Uniqlo, etc. As a small business owner, I really hate supporting chain restaurants, so we turned down a side street to try to get further away from the masses. We walked on and on, not impressed with anything we passed. Finally, my feet were pounding and I was ravenous, so I sat down at an outside table at a corner cafe. The cafe menu was bland. They had no vegan options and the only vegetarian option was pizza. I ordered a vegetable pizza with no cheese and enjoyed not being on my feet. Ian had a croque madame, which is like a fried ham and swiss sandwich with egg.
I checked my phone and saw that we had already covered 7 miles! Walking through a museum (especially one that you're lost in) is exhausting! I refused to pay for a taxi back to the hotel even though my legs were beginning to feel like jello.
When we returned to the hotel, we laid in bed, exhausted but determined to rally. We could not waste any time! We made plans to meet our friend, Geppe near the Seine at a wine cave for dinner. I can't give a good description as to what a wine cave in the middle of Paris is like because once we arrived, they were closing up for the night. Instead, we had a glass of wine at a bar next door and decided to walk back to the Latin district for dinner. We had passed an Indian restaurant on our way here and since Indian culture is predominately vegetarian, we knew there would be vegan options too. This restaurant also had shisha, or hookah. My husband is a hookah fanatic! Like, he used to smoke several hookahs/day when he was in college. It's something that his lovely, incredible, kind wife forced him to give up to lessen his chance of getting cancer one day. Needless to say, when he's in an exotic location, he gets a free pass (on the hookah, nothing else). So, he's in heaven! We ordered naan for Ian and Geppe (heads up, naan and samosas are not traditionally vegan), poppodams for all of us, a mint flavored hookah, a bottle of wine, and each of us got a curry with jasmine rice. The server brought me a bindi (the sticky jewels that you wear on your forehead and I was over the moon about this! I looked so ratchet but I tried really hard to take a decent picture with this thing on my forehead and not look terrible.
Geppe had never tried hookah before and he was trepidatious at first, but warmed up to it before we left! We swapped store between mouthfuls of curried vegetables with rice.The stories becoming more hysterical with every sip of red wine and every puff of hookah, both especially effective after the international flights! When the meal was over, we made plans to meet up again tomorrow. Our friend, Michael would be landing in the morning and we were eager to all be together on another continent! Geppe headed off towards the train station and we walked on foot to our hotel. As soon as that hotel door closed, I was pulling that vegan chocolate peanut butter cheesecake out of our mini fridge and we both devoured it ravenously! I've never had such incredible vegan cheesecake to this day! We let the television lull us to sleep with abstract shows in French. Waking up to these shows at 4am was a little trippy, but they were fascinating.
The following day, we met up with Michael and Geppe. Ian and I grabbed a steaming hot cafe Americano and met them near the lock bridge (which if you didn't know, became so heavy with the weight of locks that it collapsed! Ian still has the lock we were going to add clipped to his backpack.) We set off on foot towards the Eiffel Tower. It again, appeared to be so close, but it was more like 3 miles away from us. Still, it was a nice day with a nippy breeze but we were dressed appropriately and when you're cold, you can just walk faster to warm up. We walked along the water until we saw the gate to get inside. We decided to make a picnic and found a grocer just a few blocks down. We all went our separate ways and came back together with an insane picnic spread. Geppe is vegetarian and Michael and Ian were (Ian's now vegan and Michael is more vegetarian now too) so there was a little bit of everything in my picture, but I was able to eat hummus, tomatoes, bread, jams, olives, a roasted red pepper spread, orange slices, dark chocolate, etc. and, of course, French champagne.
We brought the food to the park (it's completely free to go inside the park, it only costs money if you want to got up the Eiffel Tower) and dined gluttonously in front of the Eiffel tower through long sips of champagne. None of us had the desire to go inside the tower, so we walked back towards the Seine and decided to take a boat tour of the river. The sun was dipping low in the sky, but we sat on the roof and allowed the wind to whip our faces while we took in the city sights from another angle. It was lovely.
We had swanky dinner reservations at "Les Ombres" (http://www.lesombres-restaurant.com), a restaurant with spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower. I only had an hour to get ready after the boat ride and we were now wind-blown, so I desperately needed to fix my face. We ubered back to the hotel, changed, brush the bajeesus out of my hair, threw on some heels, and ubered back towards the Eiffel Tower for dinner. The chef had prepared some beautiful, almost savory vegan butternut squash macarons for me. They were delightful, but nothing was better than the view. Every half hour, the Eiffel Tower turns into a glittering spectacle, which I understand that the locals believe to be a trashy eye-sore, but it makes all of my Disney Paris dreams come true and I just lapped it up.
The following day was a rainy Sunday. Michael & Geppe caught a flight to Genoa in the morning. Ian and I would meet them there that night. Ian had yet to experience most of Paris' most traditional foods, and since he's a chef, this was a priority. We walked briskly down to the Seine, past Notre Dame just in time to hear the bells chiming off. It was raining and Ian insisted that we buy a couple cheap umbrellas (which, after living in New York, I am adamantly against!). I hate umbrellas in bug cities, but I was already pretty soaked, so I gave in. He bought 2 for only 10 euros! Such a bargain...
We walked on, into the unknown, winding our way around cobblestone roads with street vendors sucking on cigarettes out front. First, we passed a little macaron shop. He ordered (okay, I ordered for him) 6 different macaron flavors and two cafe Americanos. We sat beneath the awning with rain droplets pattering away above us and I sipped vegan coffee while forcing Ian to describe in grave detail, the rich flavors of each macaron. Needless to say, there were no vegan options here. We stopped in a consignment shop next door and perused cool, vintage, French accessories. We both settles on hats. Mine has not looked as cool on me since the day I bought it. Maybe it was the French air. Le sigh.
I popped my head into brasserie after brasserie, looking for one that had both escargot and creme brullee on the menu. This was a surprisingly difficult task. Thankfully, on Sundays, this area of town set up a huge market with a menagerie of tents, shouldered up to one another, faint whisps of tobacco, cognac, and dust flow through the damp air and merchants meander through tents, shuffling and organizing their trinkets like an ant colony, always moving. This market gave us loads of time just fingering through odds and ends. the clock was now working against us. We did have a flight to catch toItaly in just a few hours! As we crossed the street to another branch of flowering tents and venders, I eyed an eclair in the window. Yes! What is more French that a chocolate eclair?? I quickly darted in and purchased "une chocolat eclair, sil vu plais" and received my treat, which I passed, again, off to Ian.
Now I was sprinting down the street, reading menus as quickly as I could. At last, we came to a brasserie with big brass doors and they met my dining criteria. We sat at a small table for two with a view of the street. We both perused the menu and I noticed that literally nothing on this menu was vegan. Of fucking course. Usually, you can find a salad, steamed broccoli, something! I ordered a bottle of wine. Ian wanted to find another restaurant where I could eat, but we did not have time and I really wanted him to be able to say that he had at least tried creme brûlée in Paris! (Ian, by the way, makes the best creme brûlée in the world. Hands down. No question.) He ordered the escargots, steak frites, and creme brûlée. The waiter brought out bread with butter and I ate the bread. Did I mention the wine? That has grapes which are a fruit, so this is basically a very balanced meal.
I was feeling great, and we were so tragically lost at this point that we were running extremely late and were forced to hail a taxi to take us to the hotel, but we did take the train back to the airport which saved us some money! Thankfully, the airport had a little cafe with some kind of vegan quinoa salad, which I paired with French beer and felt satisfyingly full, and ready to board a plane, as long as no one asked me any difficult questions...
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