VEGAN TRAVEL GUIDE: GIRONA

10.10.2018

 

This year I graduated from studying photography at university! Since then, I started working as a freelance photography assistant. This is brilliant for two reasons, one: it gives me the time to work on this blog, and two: I am working on food photography shoots, where I’m learning a lot that I can apply to the blog. But, working as a freelancer can be difficult since you don’t have a concrete work schedule. This means that between work and the blog, Freya and I haven’t been able to go abroad on holiday together. So when my parents offered us the chance to join them on holiday for a long weekend in Girona, Spain, we were very excited. However, because of work commitments, Freya couldn’t make it, but she encouraged me to go away on a break anyway. So this blog post is a vegan's guide to Girona as well as a thank you to my parents for inviting us to Girona, even if I was the only who made it in the end.

 

The trip started with a flight to Barcelona, and as you can expect from all good cheap flights, I arrived into Barcelona well after midnight. I got the bus down to La Ramblas where my parents had booked a room for the night. After a quick “How was the flight?” catch up we hit the hay so we could have a few hours the next morning in Barcelona before catching the train to Girona.

 

For breakfast, our hotel provided a basic continental breakfast buffet. I held my reservations at first about the vegan options, but when we got there I was pleasantly surprised. They served plenty of fruit, toast & tomato puree, and all the coffee you could desire. This worked for us as we were only after a small breakfast before heading out. If you are after something a little more special, there are many cafes in Barcelona catering for vegans.

 

We decided to go and visit the famous La Sagrada Família. The building itself is spectacular! I’d already seen it a few years before when visiting with Freya, so whilst my parents marvelled at the architecture I went to get some ice cream. That morning I looked online to see if anywhere offered vegan gelato, and luckily there was a store opposite La Sagrada Família! It's called Arelquino Gelato and it served many sorbets and gelatos. I asked for “vegan chocolate ice cream” and she knew immediately what I was after. The chocolate sorbet (although not technically an ice cream) was cooling in the heavy sun. The flavour was good too, although not as good as other ice creams I’ve had. More importantly, it was had at the right time in the right place, so I enjoyed it regardless.

 

 

 

We arrived back to our place on Las Ramblas before lunch and decided we’d get a bite to eat before catching the train. Another quick search online found an Indian restaurant around the corner called Govinda. Although I’d have liked a traditional Spanish lunch, we were short for time so a place that was close was best. Although it was only a couple of minutes walk off from Las Ramblas, it was already noticeably less touristy. It was refreshing to get away from all the hustle! The restaurant itself was clean and spacious. It had a large glass window that looked out onto a historical roman square. The decor had a modern Spanish feel to it, with beautiful pattern tile work on the walls and. And most importantly, space was well air-conditioned. As for the food, there was plenty of vegan option to choose from. I’d guess that almost 75% of the menu was vegan-friendly, and they offered a reasonably priced lunch deal of a starter, main and dessert for €10.90. For my starter, I ordered a daal. It was full of flavour, I could taste each individual spice used to flavour the dish. I would say (and this goes for nearly all the food I ate) that it was a little too salty for my palette. What I appreciated most about the daal was that it wasn't overcooked. The lentils still had a good texture. For the main course, I had a green bean curry. The beans came in a sauce that was beautifully creamy, and to balance the soft green beans it had crispy potatoes. This was served with a cardamom papadum that helped add a crisp texture and aromatic flavours to the dish. And finally, I chose a chocolate brownie as my dessert. At first, I thought it looked a little on the small side… however, it was so rich and packed with flavour that I don’t think I could have eaten any more! It tasted of chocolate and banana and had nuts baked into it and the texture was super gooey. On a spectrum of cake to dessert, it was firmly a dessert brownie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, we caught the train to Girona. We opted for the slower and cheaper train which only took about an hour and a half. If you decided to pay a little more you can get the fast train to Girona in around an hour. This makes Girona a good day trip for people staying in Barcelona. For the train journey snacks, we took a bag of crisps. Those little salty stick ones that you only ever find on holiday in Europe, I like to imagine they are the offcuts from crincle cut crisps.

 

On arriving in Girona, we got a taxi to our accommodation. During the ride, I noticed a sign touting “Vegan-Friendly” in front of a restaurant. I noted the name, El Pati de la Veina, and we returned that evening. Inside the place was small and characterful! Every wall was covered in mementoes and nicknacks, and the menus were glued into gatefold vinyl covers. It all felt very bohemian. We sat at the back of the restaurant next to a window overlooking the river Onyar. The Onyar cuts Girona in two, one side being the old town and one is new. The menu had three starters, three mains, and three desserts, with one option being meat, vegetarian and vegan respectively. So for me, it was a set menu, but my parent had the choice of the lot. You got to choose an option from each course and a glass of either red or white wine for a total of €12.50. I started with a watermelon gazpacho! I’d never heard of this before so I was excited to try it. It was an interesting mix of sweet watermelon flavours and the savoury, spicy, sweetness of a regular gazpacho. I enjoyed it as a new experience, yet, I thought the watermelon oversweetened the dish. For the main, I had “Vegetable Ceviche”. That was all the menu said. It came as a loose patte of vegetables. It was a mix of finely chopped veggies, nuts and spices packed into a block shape and served with some fresh lettuce leaves. It tasted delicious, but I wasn’t convinced by its texture. The crunchy lettuce definitely helped, almost working as a cracker to eat it with. For dessert, I once again had a chocolate brownie! Two in one day! It was quite dense and didn’t have enough flour in it, it seemed to mostly consist of coconut oil and chocolate. Despite its solid texture, it did have a good taste. I would say overall, El Pati de la Veina had interesting ideas and I would love to go back and see what they would serve next time. However, the execution was slightly lacking. Despite this, we all had a lovely evening in what is a thoroughly unique restaurant!

 

 

 

 

After dinner, we took a walk through the lamp-lit streets. The city of Girona is historic and beautiful. And if you are a Game of Thrones fan like me, you may recognise the massive cathedral as the Great Sept of Baelor. Walking the city at night felt quite safe, there were many cafes and bars open and buzzing with people. We stumbled across another vegan restaurant on our stroll called Om. Restaurant. Before the flight, I had done a little research, yet I was surprised by how easily we stumbled across vegan food. It reminded me of a previous trip that both Freya and I took to Palma de Mallorca. Both of these destinations are Catalonian in body and spirit, and I suppose it may be the free-thinking Catalonian minds that are so open to veganism. Either way, it wasn’t hard to find a vegan meal! After our stroll, we headed back to the apartment to get some shut-eye.

 

The next day was spent walking the same picturesque streets of Girona. We stopped and had coffees here and there. Most cafes stocked a brand of plant milk called Yosoy, with many offering two or three different vegan milk options. I did find that when I asked about vegan option most people would say something along the lines of “100% plant”. This may be a translation thing, but I found it easy enough to say both “vegan” and “100% plant”, and people knew exactly what I was after. We walked over their famous Eiffel bridge built by the same Eiffel who designed the tower in Paris. We also walked the old city walls of Girona. This gave us spectacular views of the city! In a short time we became acquainted with the streets. Within that day we already had built a mental map and no longer needed our phones to guide us.

 

 

 

 

For dinner on the second evening, we went to Om. Restaurant that we had scouted the night before. Om.’s menu is 100% vegan so there are no worries there. I ordered a Seitan Stew that was marked as a Catalonian dish. I ordered this because I wanted to try out traditional food. My parents ordered a plate of gnocchi and a couscous dish. I tried all three (one of the best reasons to go to an all vegan restaurant!) and I was most impressed by the gnocchi. The pesto had a delicious fresh taste and the pasta was cooked to perfection. The Catalonian seitan stew had a unique taste from the creamy, salty sauce that married well with the texture of the seitan. The couscous and vegetables were also well seasoned, however, it felt like there was something missing in the dish. If you were to order the seitan stew and the couscous between two people and share half each, it would make a more balanced meal. The stand out for me from Om. was the “Moritz” beer that they served. It can be hard to find good vegan alcohol since it isn’t always labelled. So, to know that the light and refreshing Moritz was vegan solved that little problem for me. The decor at Om. is modern, minimal, and relaxed. Visiting in the future Om. would make a perfect place to hide from the midday sun with a beer in hand.

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we all decided it would be a good day to go and visit a Dali theatre-museum in Figueres. Figueres is either a short bus or a quick train ride up the tracks towards the French/Spanish border. We started the day with some fruit and toast that we had gotten from a local supermarket. The largest supermarket we found in Girona was still on the smaller side. Although it did have everything we needed for our shorter stay. If you were to stay for longer and had planned on cooking, I would recommend looking for a “Hypermarket” instead of a “Supermarket”! We actually passed Girona's hypermarket on our way out of town aboard the morning bus to Figueres.

 

Feguares is a smaller city than Girona, yet, this didn’t make it any harder to find something to eat. Again, doing a quick google search threw up plenty of options. Unluckily, the closest one said it was open online yet it was closed when we arrived. As it was lunch time and we were hungry I walked to the restaurant down the street. I asked the staff if it would be possible to cater for vegans. They replied by showing me many different dishes they could alter for me! So we sat in a charming alley at one of the tables of Bocam. We ordered bread as a starter which was freshly baked, soft in the centre with a crispy crust. This came served with some olive oil. I know it sounds silly, but this may have been my favourite thing I ate the entire holiday. The bread was absolutely perfect, and the oil was just as incredible too. Having this with a cold glass of beer, sitting in the shade of beautiful old architecture was bliss. This is the kind of culinary experience I always look forward to. Its simplicity somehow feels quintessential to a European holiday. For my lunch, I ordered myself a Creamy Mushroom Risotto. This too was also delicious, its flavours were punchy and the rice was soft and creamy. It was so salty that by the time I finished it I was hankering for a glass of water.

 

The rest of that day was spent looking around the eclectic works of Dali in the setting of a theatre he converted. The place was packed! It was full of so much fascinating work that by the end it was almost disorientating. Definitely an experience Dali would be proud of. After this, we got the train back to Girona, which turned out to be quicker and cheaper than the bus!

 

 

 

 

Any other meals we ate were prepared by us in our holiday apartment. I found cooking in Girona difficult at times. The language barrier make it hard to tell which ingredients I wanted. For instance one night I made a meal with a white bean mash, and all I could find in the supermarket was the beans in a jar. When I cooked them up it was far too mushy and didn’t keep any texture form the beans. We ate loads of delicious snacks though! Most days we had olives, bread, olive oil, crisps, crackers, wine & beer.

 

If I you were to ask me if I would recommend Girona as a vegan holiday destination, I would unreservedly say yes. It was easy to find food and the locals understood each time I asked for vegan options. The city itself is relaxed but not slow, there was plenty to keep us occupied for a long weekend. If you did want to stay for longer, it would be a great place to travel out from. You can easily take a train to places like Barcelona or other cities such as Figueres. I had a wonderful time, it was just the type of slow and relaxing break I needed.

 

If you’ve found our tips helpful, or you’ve ever been to Girona, we’d love to know! Leave us a comment below, or find us on social media.

 

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Photograph of Freya and Charlie, the blog authors.

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