When Joey surprised me with tickets for a spontaneous escape to Spain, I was excited and nervous at the same time! I very much longed to travel again after staying in Berlin for months in a row. The internship I started in February made me postpone my explore the world plans, so this was the perfect way to calm the unbreakable wanderlust – until in August I would hit the road again for an indefinite time.
Spain promised warmer weather and I was looking forward to outdoor activities and polishing my rusty Spanish a bit. Simultaneously I was worried by rumors about Spain being a rather difficult place for vegans. When I go on a trip I want to enjoy a country and its culture in every way. (Vegan) food plays a major role in my life – as my social media presence and this blog’s name indicate 😉
Making vegan possible
I chose my destinations cautiously. Not that it is difficult to find vegan friendly places nowadays. Most countries offer a variety of plant-based options and veggie restaurants are more or less easy to find. I wrote about vegan traveling before, so you might want to check out the article “13 Travel Tips For Vegans”.
I didn’t know what to expect in Spain. Opinions were divided. There were voices praising especially Barcelona for its vegan friendly character. Others – vegans and non-vegans alike – said it was the worst place to be stuck if you decide to life without animals products. No wonder, considering the Iberian peninsula has a history of bull fighting and prides itself on ham. Still, I was confident that I´d be alright, because, after all, we are talking about Europe, right?! I made it in Argentina, so how difficult could Andalucia be? We would see…
A long-awaited reunion and emotional chaos
I thought I would be alright, when I checked what Happy Cow had to say about Malaga, our main destination for the week. According to the handy app, the city promised to welcome us with a couple of veggie and vegan friendly places. As so often it would all come down to trying hard enough. Luckily neither me or Joey lack in motivation. You will always find us with the great food 😉
When I was sitting in the airplane to Malaga, I was super fussed. I hadn’t seen my through East Europe backpacking boyfriend in almost two months and was overjoyed to get to see him again. The reunion at Malaga airport was emotional. He only arrived half hour before me on a plane from Italy, where he was hiking – I don’t remember which exactly – big mountains with his Dad, Big Joe, who had come from New Jersey to meet him. You should know that these guys and their family are big travelers and I recommend you to check out their page The Wandering Mecca.
Getting comfortable in Malaga
The first two days in Spain were mapped out already upon our arrival. I had booked a really nice and affordable AirBnB so we would have enough time to explore the city and rest a little on the beach. It turned out that we are both not really good at just hanging out. Instead we climbed every castle and mountain we could find and decided on much more challenging activities for the next couple days.
The challenge: Me vs. Ham
Challenge enough turned out to be finding food. Hard to believe that during the three days we spend spent in Malaga, we checked out 4 vegetarian restaurants, some even more than once, and only one time we were lucky enough to find one open. And you would think that we made a rookies mistake of showing by show up during siesta time. No, I am actually talking 9 p.m, perfect dinner time – even though closer to the German eating schedule than to the Spanish.
As we were prepared for not finding too many vegan options, we didn’t have to starve. Not only had I chosen an AirBnB with a fully equipped kitchen, which would safe save trouble and money, but I had previously checked what regular dishes on Spanish menus were vegan our could easily be veganised.
Spanish summer in a bowl
Andalusian Gazpacho turned out to be a treasure and real life-saver on numerous occasions. Gazpachos, or Spanish summer in a bowl as I like to call it, is an ice-cold served soup that requires no more ingredients than sun-kissed tomatoes, long green peppers, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Accompanied by locally-baked white bread it became my first choice at any time: “Hay Gazpacho?”
Here is a list of the options that worked for me:
PATATAS BRAVAS = fried potatoes served with spicy tomato sauce and garlic mayonnaise
PIMIENTOS ASADOS = roasted bell peppers
PAN CON TOMATE = bread rubbed with ripe tomato, olive oil, and salt or garlic
ZANAHORIAS ALIÑADAS = marinated carrots
CROQUETAS DE PATATA = potato croquettes, breaded, deep-fried, and cylinder-shaped
ESPINACAS CON GARBANZOS = spinach and chickpeas
BERENJENAS FRITAS = fried eggplant – it us usually drizzled with honey, so make sure to say “Sin miel” when you order
ISTO MANCHEGO = zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, and onion stew
ZARANGOLLO= zucchini and onion stew
ESCALIVADA = grilled eggplant, onion, and bell pepper
ACEITUNAS = olives
CHAMPAÑONES AL AJILLO = garlic-sauteed mushrooms
ALCACHOFAS AL AJILLO = garlic-sauteed artichokes
And if I didn´t feel like tapas, there were always two lasts straws: Italian food and falafel. No decent pizza baker ever denied my wish for “sin queso, por favor”. And luckily, falafel is easy to find, too. Head to any Döner Kebab, order a falafel without white sauce and you´ll be on the safe side.
Market days never lose their magic
Joey and me also had a great time exploring local markets. Malagas Atarazanas Market for example, was a real gem. On the second day in the city we followed the advice of our AirBnB host Andrea and went to Atarazanas for lunch. Lively and beautiful as the market was, we had only just walked through the huge doors when Mr. Mecca spotted a fresh juice stand. After a cup or two of fresh fruit blends, prepared right infront of our eyes, we continued by stocking up on ripe fruits, organic veggies and fresh bread. We left super content with the prospect of a wonderful beach picnic, where we would plan our next adventure.
Two-day bike adventures along Andalusian beaches
The following day we left Malaga in the direction to Nerja, a small village 60 km east of the city. We had decided to rent bikes and enjoy the way along the coast on the bike saddle. It took one day to get there, another to come back. It turned out to be a great idea. The ride was easy, the weather super sunny and just perfectly warm. The short distance allowed us to take several stops along the way. For coffee (Joey) and Gazpacho (me), of course. But it also included lots of sunbathing, swimming and exploring the villages along the way.
We made it to Nerja – Where is the Pizza?
Once we arrived in Nerja, we checked into our hostel, showered and directly made our way to a pizzeria, which was recommended to us by a girl we became friends with in Malaga. Her parents ran an Italian restaurant in the center of the city and we had promised her to go visit. Starving as we were by that point, we found the place after some confusion and had to face the disappointing truth: It was CLOSED. Of course.
The food hunt continues
We cried only a little bit, since we were fantasizing the last 20km of our ride about what incredible pizza creation we would indulge in later. Luckily we found ourselves close to another Italian restaurant, which turned out to be employing the most incredible waiter I had ever had the pleasure to be served by in my entire life. His name was Frederico. A very sweet and funny guy. One of those waiters who bring you extra pineapple for your pizza and joke with the kids, until really everyone is watching and applauding.
Spain’s most romantic sunset
We thought the pizza and Frederico were the highlight of the night, but didn’t expect what came afterwards: From the Balcon de Europa, a magnificent promenade along the edge of a towering cliff, we faced the most beautiful sunset Spain could grant us. I was actually breathless for a minute. The magic of the moment was truly difficult to put in words. I would say that this view alone was worth coming to Spain. The boasting panorama over the Mediterranean and the small coves and beaches below left quite an impression on the both of us.
Hiking adventures and wet feet drama
The following morning we got up early and had breakfast at a little café around the corner of the hostel. It offered fresh smoothies and vegan carrot cake for only a couple euros, so we couldn’t say no. After a rich first meal of the day we went on a little hike up a riverbed, which was extremely funny. We jumped from rock to rock to avoid wet feet, which was bound to go wrong . It did at least for one of us 😉 I leave it to you to guess who was the lucky one…
Back on the road to Malaga
We spent the rest of the day riding back to Malaga. This time with less stops and higher speed pacing right along the road. I enjoyed getting a little exercise in and was happy to be out in the sun. What had I missed the sun rays on my skin during the long German winter.
Back in Malaga we checked into a hostel for the night. We had booked two beds in a dorm, but got lucky again: They had a free double room and gave us a big discount. We ended up paying only 5 euros more and gained a good night sleep in return.
Next stop: Granada
The wake up call came early again the next day. We had organized a BlaBlaCar to take us to Granada. We went on the 2-hour drive in very nice company. A vegan couple (what are the chances?!) was joining us on our way. Mary from New York (again…) and her British fiancée, Simon, were staying in Spain for the whole month of May. They are a very sweet couple with a super interesting story and we really hope to catch up with them when in New York. Mary published a video on her YouTube channel, Brooklyn to Bristol, about their stay in Malaga! Go and watch it NOW 🙂
Getting fat in Granada
What followed was a really nice and relaxing day in Granada. We explored the city by foot and chose some more touristy paths. Joey wanted to go hiking the next day, so we decided to save our energy for that. Again we were blessed with a great AirBnB host, Pablo from Argentina. Upon our arrival he gave us a ton of recommendations and answered all our questions. Taking his advice we had a wonderful experience and even found a couple of veggie restaurants that were actually open when we passed by for a snack!
Be a tourist in Spain – When it´s worth it
On our last day we decided to get up 5 am (!) to be first in line to see the Gardens of Alhambra. Yeah – The news that you had to sign up weeks in advance to get a ticket did not reached us until 12 hours before our visit. We actually had tried the day before, but arrived an hour too late. Who would have thought. It was a real adventure to race up the mountain hoping to arrive in time. But getting to walk through the beautiful gardens around that hour of the morning added a special glow to to scene. We bonded with other travelers waiting in the line and spend the rest of the day with a couple from Australia, so after all it was worth it.
Time to say goodbye
After a beautiful week in Spain we had to make our way back to Berlin. This time Joey accompanied me. He had only a few days of his sabbatical left and was going to explore the city and the local craft beer scene before heading back to the States. I have to thank him again for inviting me on this escape to Andalucia! We had a blast and I am looking forward to many more trips alike!
Can I recommend going to Spain as a vegan?
In a nutshell I have to admit that traveling in Spain tested my patience. But with a little imagination and resourcefulness you will find a bunch of cruelty-free foods to munch on. Even if its sometimes the simpler stuff. As so often: Food is however just around the corner.