Well I never been to Spain...
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
I'll be honest with you, I had no interest in visiting Spain. I wasn't against Spain per se, but it was one of the last countries in the Europe for me to visit and I wanted to check it off my list, but I wasn't THAT excited to see it. Ian and I booked a ridiculously cheap flight to Amsterdam ( about $450 through NextVacay.com) and I found another flight from Amsterdam to Spain for less than $80 round trip (through RyanAir.com). So, we could vacation in Amsterdam for three days, fly to Spain for four days, take a ferry to Morocco for a day, stop by the rock of Gibraltar for a night, all for less than $1000. Stick with me baby. I'll show you the world!
When I began searching for hotels in Spain, I stumbled across this really random website called Veggie-Hotels.com and found this incredible estate called Finca Vegana. It's a gorgeous estate in the hills of Spain, surrounded by olive groves. If you are not already aware, I am vegan. I do not eat any dairy, meat, or eggs. Before you get too judgy, please be aware that tater tots and Oreos are vegan. I am living my best life. Haha So, Finca Vegana is a completely vegan farm with a lovely stream running through the grounds, a beautiful pool, and several charming farm houses for lodging. Spain is not exactly vegan-friendly and I knew that not only would this place offer a taste of true Spanish culture, but I wouldn't have to survive on bread and fries because they would actually have vegan food for me! I immediately booked the estate for our stay.
Finca Vegana is owned by a young plant-based couple, James (Australian) and Nina (German). Not long ago, the couple gave birth to little Lenny, and they decided to travel around in a camper across Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, etc.
As fate would have it, Spain ended up being their final destination because they fell in love with the country, and even more importantly, the Finca Vegana estate. They now live on the property and couldn't be happier. This family of three is now getting the hang of owning and operating the beautiful vegan estate.
The whole family lives a plant-based lifestyle (even the dog eats a mostly vegan diet!). Initially, James' sister went vegan with great success and that started the wheels turning. James went vegan when they first found out that they were expecting. Nina was already vegetarian, but went vegan in 2018.
Now, the family tries not to have any animal products, unless it means being rude. They tried to explain that they were vegan to a man who didn't speak the same language. The man was so excited to prepare a meal for them. You can understand their confusion when seeing that he had presented them with a pasta dish, topped with bacon. Instead of refusing the non-vegan meal, they graciously ate the host's pasta and dealt with the consequences (once you go vegan, it is literally painful to try to force your body to consume animal products!) afterwards. I completely understand and agree with their choice to accept the hosts dish. Life is too short to make people feel small when they genuinely try their best to be accommodating.
There are many things to do at and around Finca Vegana. Ian and I were looking for a more relaxing trip, but you can also book horseback riding, yoga classes, olive oil tastings, and I bet James and Nina would even host a vegan cooking class if you asked really nicely! Personally, the one thing you can't miss out on is star-gazing. Once the sun sets, you absolutely must pop your head outside and look at the billions of stars above you. I've never seen a more clear sky in all of my travels.
"When you begin going plant-based, you start questioning things more. Needing protein from animals, calcium from milk, etc... Things we've always been told. As a society, we need to start taking steps to reevaluate where we get our information from." -James
Finca Vegana is a family operation. Together, James, Nina, and little Lenny work to keep the estate pristine, tend to various plants, take care of customers, and James and Nina even cook all of the vegan meals (Though, they may be hiring a new chef soon and yes, I swiftly volunteered my husband for the job). James and Nina are incredible vegan chefs. Check out their Instagram to see photos of their delicious food! James used to work for an Italian chef, but credits his father for teaching him his kitchen skills. All of our meals were exquisite! Nina has always loved the hospitality industry and knew she wanted to do something in it. As a small business owner, I find it so refreshing to see owners with such a hands-on approach to their business. These two are an intelligent, caring, gorgeous couple and I have a feeling that their estate has very bright days ahead!
Ian (my husband) and I stayed in one of the guest houses and it was exactly what we needed. There was a roaring fire in the fireplace, a large bed, kitchen, outdoor patio for dining, and billions of stars that we could actually see! James prepared spinach with peanut sauce, rice, coconut lime yoghurt, and red pepper slices for dinner on our first night. Nina delivered it to our house and it was wonderfully delicious! We didn't turn on a television or connect to Wifi at all. Instead, Ian and I curled up by the fire, adding wood when it was needed, and read books while the winds whipped outside. The whole thing was impossibly romantic. I also don't think I've ever slept so well in my life!
The following morning, we walked down to the river and lounged in the hammock with a book, dipping our feet in the water from time to time. Afterwards, we took a walk through the beautiful olive groves. Ian popped one into his mouth and quickly realized that raw olives are pretty disgusting, but the sweeping views were incredible. We later decided to head into the city to buy some rich, Spanish wine. Of course, when we arrived in Zahara proper, the grocery store was closed. We thought it was closed for siesta (lots of places in Europe close for an hour or so, mid-day and reopen at night). We decided to hike up to some medieval ruins at the crest of the city until the grocery store reopened. It was a steep, but short hike, and the views were spectacular! When we hiked back down, the grocery store was still closed. We decided to just grab some wine from one of the souvenir shops and head back for dinner at Finca Vegana.
When we returned to Finca Vegana, James had prepared a rich pumpkin soup, cucumber tomato salad, and smoked cayenne dusted bread. It was so good and matched the mood of the weather perfectly. The temperatures drop at night in the mountains and it gets pretty cool, like Fall in Tennessee. Ian and I killed the bottle of wine, one rich, spicy sip at a time by the roaring fire. We slept like the dead, and even though the last thing we wanted to do was part ways, we had to leave the estate and head for Morocco the following morning.
It's strange because so many things at Finca Vegana mimic Ian and I's life. I have so much respect for Nina and James and all of the hard work and dedication that they have put into their property. If you EVER get the chance to visit the south of Spain, you absolutely must stay at least one night at Finca Vegana. If you have the option, spend a week there. You'll thank me later. I already know that we'll be back to Finca within the year.
Ian and I fell head over heels in love with Spain in it's entirety. Despite the language barrier, the people were so warm and helpful. There weren't a ton of vegan options outside of Fince Vegana, but the bread and olive oil were incredible. I could literally bathe in that Spanish olive oil! The country also seems to have a leg up on America when it comes to their use of alternative energy sources. There were buses running on solar power, loads of wind farms, solar panels on thousands of houses, etc. It's impressive to see such an old country keeping up with eco-concious changes. Spain is the perfect blend of modern civility and classic romanticism. I can't wait to return.
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