Last week I had the mixed pleasure of visiting the (flooded) French capital for what I think was the 4th time, but the 1st as a relatively grown-up. My mind has changed a lot in the past few months, even more so in the past few years, so it was really enjoyable to go and notice, appreciate and seek different aspects of life there.
On a practical side, there was a big difference: I am now a human fuelled exclusively by lower-entropy vegan food, so whereas last time my meal choices were all about finding something acceptable in terms of personal (fussy) taste, such as 5 (pain au chocolat)-a-day, this time was all about finding suitable fuel conforming to my values.
On top of that, I found my leftover applicable foreign money consisted of €100, plus a few € in coins.
As I am now a part-time worker and student, and left the organising and preparation for the trip
pretty late, I didn’t exchange any money, so decided that would be my budget. After all, it was only Tuesday to Friday.
The day started extremely early. The first of the 3 alarms I set went off at 3:40am. I was the first tube customer and was waiting for the first tube service at 4:40am: destination St. Pancras.
I had breakfast on the Eurostar: my Taste the Difference oats from Sainsbury’s – they are delicious and chewy, and yes, thanks, I can taste the difference, but I am not buying them anymore as they come in a “currently not recyclable” plastic bag. Pfffff.
I soaked them overnight in water and topped them with Green&Black’s organic fairtrade cocoa and Meridian 100% peanuts PB (no palm oil!). All of that in my reused salsa jar. 🙂 Cost of breakfast on the day: €0.
The journey was super swift and the fact that there is no passport check at the Paris end and you’re just there, feeling the Paris rain a couple of hours after breathing London air, makes it feel very close indeed.
I got to Paris a couple of hours earlier than my sister and my nephew, who I was going to meet there . I wandered down to our meeting area and waited in the drizzle, then went to Tea by Thé by the Louvre. I had a jasmine green tea for €3, only ordering it after I made sure it would come in a “proper” reusable cup.
After meeting my zero-waste heroine Lauren Singer I am now more determined to reduce my waste and shifting to a zero-waste life. Bring it on!!
After meeting up with my sister and nephew and chomping on a few of my home-brought nuts&seeds, in another beloved jar, – (€0) – we went to a local boulangerie and I asked if they had anything vegan, végétalien in French.
The ladies told me none of their lovely-looking baguettes and bâtards were vegan. “Merde alors!” I thought. – yes, speaking French really did help. And not just to swear in French, which is probably my favourite swearing language. I am not entirely sure if and how much English they spoke, but it felt nice not to have a communication barrier and being able to explain I didn’t want any meat / fish / dairy or egg products.
I was surprised to find out that the young girl working there was vegan. Then again I am happily surprised anytime I meet someone vegan, a year ago I thought vegan-eating people only existed on Instagram. 😐
They asked what I would like a baguette with and I said it would be great to have one with the plant ingredients they had in other sandwiches: lettuce, tomatoes, aubergines… anything without a head, though I love artichokes and their ❤ . One of them wandered off and mysteriously disappeared in the darkness of the…kitchen. After a few minutes I had my personalised vegan baguette, for €3.50. 🙂
I took the opportunity to talk to the girl at the bakery and asked her what it was like to eat vegan food in Paris and in France. “As long as you don’t listen to people’s comments it’s fine” she told me, smiling. When I asked her what those comments were, she said many tell her that’s not the norm, ask why she does it…
I mentioned that in the past few months, I have had a feeling that in some areas in London, it seems to have become a bit of a trend. She said that’s not the case in France.
We got to the flat and had a break, had some tea. I had brought some individually wrapped tea bags from home. My desire to avoid any inconvenience meant I felt wary of taking some loose green tea in a jar as I didn’t want them to think it was some illegal herb. Is this the price to pay for a system of governed freedom or was I over thinking?
And though on that occasion individually wrapped teabags were very handy, why do so many brands individually wrap teabags anyway? And use metal staples to secure the cotton string? Knots all the way, baby.
We walked around in the afternoon rain. The whole Louvre complex looks absolutely majestic. My sister had “invested” in a €5 brolly the day before and it was already proving to be low quality and problematic, bringing the concept of planned obsolescence to a new level. Ducks surfing in a pond at the Jardins des Tuileries made her briefly forget about the crappy umbrella.
We looked for a café to have a break and give Edo his pancake fix. There was no boob-free-dairy-free milk so I had an espresso: €3.70 with service charge. + a naked bar brought from home 😉
As we were staying in a flat with a kitchen, decided to buy ingredients for making our own dinner: a €-vegan-child-friendly dinner of spaghetti and wraps with beans, vegetables and salsa. Contribution for food: €5 or so.
During our evening stroll Edo saw the Tour Eiffel for the first time. The weather was still wet, though we didn’t know it would lead to floods in Paris.
We had breakfast at home, cereal and delicious organic soy milk, then caught the metro to see the Tour Eiffel up close: a daily adult metro ticket is €7.
As a snack I had some seedy crackers bought the previous night which happened to be vegan.
The Trocadero was, as ever, filled with tourists and people selling all sizes and shades of mini Eiffel towers – including Slimer green.
We spoke to a man selling towers and magnets, from Senegal. He told us how he loves Senegal but there is no work there. He’s been in Paris 10 years but he preferred Italy when he was there years ago.
I wish people blinded with xenophobic ideas would have the decency to talk to some of the people who leave their countries in pursuit of work, rather than comfortably condemning them for anything wrong in our society.
A short ride to the Champs Elysées and a wander around and it was time for lunch. Finding a suitable place was tricky. I think I pissed off my sister when I gave her an appalled look after asking me if they had anything vegan in Mc Donald’s and telling her the only occasion I ever set foot in there is in a loo emergency.
I suggested having a look in some of the side streets. There was a Middle Eastern place = falafels: vegans’ forever saviours. Pity they cooked the falafels together with all the meat. 😐
We eventually settled for Midoré where I had a quinoa, chickpeas and lentil salad with a few leaves of spinach and a roll. Not bad at all, but it was plastic heaven/hell. I reluctantly used my disposable plastic fork as I had forgotten mine at home. Zero-waste is something I need to work on. I had my jar off water from home so didn’t need to buy a drink. Salad: €6.60.
We were walking down the Champs Elysées again when my nephew said he wants to be a vegetarian. I’m surprised I didn’t cry, that was one of the best moments of the whole trip.
Never mind he had Burger King nuggets the day after. 😛
We took the Metro up to Sacré Cœur and enjoyed the view and walking around the lovely streets full of artists making portraits along the cobbled streets, giving people with big noses even bigger ones on canvas.
The atmosphere was calm and cosy, despite the area being so touristy. While admiring the view of the city I started talking to a man from Nice. I said I was wondering whether the view was reduced due to fog or pollution and he said something I heard several times during the trip: “C’est Paris!”.
We had dinner at home and this time we had baguette bruschetta for starters (minus the garlic and basil, never mind).
Plus more pasta and wraps. Not the most exciting, but extremely budget-friendly, and it was delicious as my sister made it.
We went to Notre Dame after dinner and it was pissing down. That mean the streets were possibly abnormally quiet and provided us with great night photo opportunities. Notre Dame is so beautiful.
On Thursday we had breakfast at home (saved more €€€) then went to the Cité des Sciences, which had a really great temporary installation on mental health as well as their permanent exhibitions on sound, genetics, plants, galaxies and more. Student ticket: €7.
After the trickyness of finding a vegan lunch the previous day, I had decided to make wraps with the leftover ingredients. That saved me more money and meant I could actually eat, as there didn’t seem to be many vegan options available in the restaurants there (Burger King, a quite expensive restaurant and a café with pre-made sarnies).
We bought more food, made dinner at home and I enjoyed (too much) hazelnut chocolate that had been left vegan (no unnecessarily added dairy). Food: €6 or so.
Friday was our last day in Paris.
I set the alarm and went to the boulangerie to buy fresh-baked goods: many treats: €5.85.
We took the metro to the Hôtel de Ville and my sister took some pictures of my nephew there.
What I did not yet know was that I would be seeing a lot more of that wonderful building in the coming hours.
My sis gave some food to a homeless man and his two doggies. I don’t know if it’s simply because I don’t live there and had a different perception, but it seems there are so many people on the streets of Paris.
We admired beautiful Notre Dame during the daytime and then looked at the swelling river, murky and fast-flowing, with sign floating down it and with water lapping up sign posts’ tops. The gap between the river and bridges’ arches looked terribly small. After another wander around the Quartier Latin, we walked back to start getting ready and E&E had to leave at lunch time.
Paris COP21 in December 2015. Floods in Paris, other French areas and Germany a few months later. Is it me or are the articles connecting extreme weather and climate change still too few and brief?
What followed was a rather unexpected adventure that involved the arduously simple task of recycling some packaging and which I have added in a separate post.
After that I needed a break and went back to the Quartier Latin area to go to Shakespeare Co. cafe – on my way there I walked through a little park where I noticed that bins had 2 bags: one for general waste and one for recycling. 😐 so there is hope for recycling. But the chances to do so are far too few.
The café is super lovely. It’s full of books and vegan options, coffee can be made with soy, almond and oat milk. ❤ They had vegan flapjacks. ❤ There is even a loo. 😛 They made me happy.
After this marvelous break I went to the bookshop area, recommended by a friend and with a great walls-sweating-knowledge atmosphere (also thanks to the “no photo” signs) and helpful sales assistants directing curious book seekers.
After crossing the swollen river again I still had the bag of food and bedding to give away and saw the man with the doggies again. By now they were in their begging attire and wearing ridiculous (but cute) little cloaks and bonnets. He seemed happy to have those items too, I hope they have been useful.
I walked towards the Centre Pompidou and went in a Naturalia shop, full of organic and vegan options and where I got some chocolate for a friend which was €1.59 (and where the lady gave me a free organic chocolate bar 🙂 ).
I walked around the Marais, a very photogenic area where there are a few vegan restaurants too.
I decided I’d head to a place I had found on Google Maps for dinner prior to my coach trip back to London, I went to Hank Vegan Burger in Rue des Archives. This place has heaps of vegan burger options, different choices of sides, drinks and even desserts! I had their €14 menu option which included the lovely Allumé burger with BBQ sauce and peppers (the most popular, apparently), a side, a drink (apricot juice!!!) and a dessert. 😛
The amount of packaging they use it terrible but I think it’s because they want it to be an easy-option place and many people probably take their burgers away. Still, so much paper. 😐
While there I started talking to another customer, F, who told me he mostly eats vegan, sometimes eats fish. I asked him what it’s like to eat vegan food in Paris and / or France, he told me it was actually easier in the ’90s when the whole macrobiotic movement was in. But with the recession many of those places closed and he said there are very few vegan places in Paris now. He travels a lot and mentioned places in the U.S. are far better for vegan food, such as in Oregon. He mentioned that for him it’s also got to do with the spirituality of not eating animals, but added that way of thinking is not really common in France, not even in the capital.
I made my way to get on a veeeery long coach journey home which I won’t bore you with.
After that I still had some € leftover, which shows that as long as you’re fine with not eating and drinking out all the time, it’s possible to eat vegan food on a budget in Paris. 😀
Have you tried vegan food in Paris?
Do metal staples on teabags baffle you too?