London Calling

Flying into London - look for the London Eye!

Flying into London – look for the London Eye!

Cheerio from London! (That’s what they say here, right??) The pictures above and below were taken on our decent into Heathrow. I may have broken a million airplane rules, but the light was just too awesome and the skies were just too clear to not snap some pictures!

Flying into London - the London Bridge in the setting sun

Flying into London – the London Bridge in the setting sun

So, after a good night’s sleep, we went check out this big city. I have never been to the UK before, but Dan spent a brief 2 days in London about 4 years ago. He actually didn’t love during his brief stay but as a big city girl I set out to change that.

Pro tip: I have been using an app on my phone that has been essential to our enjoyment since we arrived in London. I brought my iPhone 4s on this trip but it does not have access to cell service. However, when there is wifi I can easily check everything I need. The beauty of this app is that it doesn’t require wifi (as long as you “preload” it with the cities you will need when you have wifi) and it has kept me and Dan from looking like wayward tourists everywhere we go. It is the Trip Advisor app. They have walking tours, restaurants, attractions, and more all loaded onto an offline app. This morning, before we left for the day, I added all the vegan and vegetarian restaurants to the map (I looked them up on Happy Cow) so now I can figure out where we are on the map and see all the places to eat nearby!

So the first thing we decided to do today was “follow” a Trip Advisor walking tour and veer off wherever we felt like it. We took the underground to St. James’s Park and started walking. We accidentally got there when the changing of the guard was taking place. Woops! So we took it as an opportunity to take some pictures and then scurry away from the crowds into the park. We walked along the awesome pond in the park and, holy crap you guys, the pond is full of waterfowl and their babies!

BABY SWANS!!

BABY SWANS!!

This is only one picture of the cuteness, but it is the only one you are getting as the upload speed where we are staying is equivalent to dial-up and it takes about 5 minutes to add each of these pictures. So, I love you guys 7 pictures worth. Think about that.

After we watched animals being adorable for about 30 minutes we decided to walk to food. I had heard good things about Mildred’s from many a vegan (including one Soy Bean). I heard that it was a lovely place to get a tasty vegan meal, so Dan and I were headed there for our first real meal in London. On the way we ended up in the West End. We were planning on seeing a show while in London, but in the cheapest seats so as not to blow our daily (or more likely, weekly) budget. The Book of Mormon is playing in London and we could see the theater from where we were so we decided to stop by and see what their cheap seat options were like. Well, do we have good luck or what? We got over to the theater and realized that they are in the middle of doing their lottery (their cheap seat option, as it turns out, is a lottery for the seats in the front row for 20 GBP a piece). Dan and I dropped in our names 10 minutes before the draw and stuck around to see if our luck was still with us.

Guess who won the Book of Mormon lottery?

Guess who won the Book of Mormon lottery?

Indeed it was, so our afternoon plans were all set. 2 hours until showtime, we made a beeline to Mildred’s, which is conveniently only a few blocks away from the West End.

Mildred's

Mildred’s

We were seated almost immediately in a dining area very reminiscent to New York City. As many tables as possible crammed into a small space. But the space was bright and clean and smelled good, so we were happy. Mildred’s is not a vegan restaurant, but the vegan options were plentiful. Our selections can be seen below.

mixed mushroom, porcini and ale pie served with fries and mushy peas

mixed mushroom, porcini and ale pie served with fries and mushy peas

burrito filled with spicy black turtle beans, corn, red pepper and green tomatillo rice,  topped with spicy sauce served with iceberg, guacamole and pico de gallo

burrito filled with spicy black turtle beans, corn, red pepper and green tomatillo rice, topped with spicy sauce served with iceberg, guacamole and pico de gallo

I really liked the mushroom pie and Dan really liked the burrito (though not the “spicy sauce”, which wasn’t really spicy but had some flavor in it Dan wasn’t really into. Cilantro, maybe?), so we mostly stuck to our own dishes. The chips were well fried and appreciated by all, and the mushy peas were the surprise hit of the day. They were like green mashed potatoes. Delish. Also, surprising, those two entrees left us stuffed. So, for a complete meal we spent around $35 total. Not too bad. Though I did wish I had had room for dessert, even though it was better for the budget that I didn’t!

Eating vegan in Reykjavik, Iceland

Bread and coffee - the lifeblood of jet lagged people

Bread and coffee – the lifeblood of jet lagged people

So, I know we have another half day left in Reykjavik tomorrow, but I thought it was high time to get the word out about Reykjavik. It’s pretty vegan-friendly, people. Since it is a small city, it is easy to keep track of where the veggie restaurants are and intentionally go to those places, but we kept being surprised while walking by random places with vegan options. We will highlight the things we ate and saw in this post.

Sheese is freaking good vegan cheese

I love looking through foreign grocery stores. So many local, accidentally vegan products to find! What I didn’t expect was to find my favorite vegan cheese (made in Europe) in Iceland! I’ve ordered this before in the states from VeganEssentials, but they stopped importing it a few years ago. I’m looking forward to eating lots while we are in Europe. It was moderately priced, too. Similar to what I would pay for vegan cheese in the US, between $4 and $5 dollars.

Where we found the Sheese. This grocery is on Skólavörðustígur, a main pedestrian artery.

After walking Skólavörðustígur, it was time for lunch. Graenn Kostur (“The Green Choice”) is a vegetarian restaurant with a few vegan options that change daily.

Graenn Kostur - vegetarian restaurant

Graenn Kostur – vegetarian restaurant

Our delicious meal of baked eggplant filled with a rice pilaf and covered in sauce.

This was enough for both Dan and me for lunch. It cost 1800 Icelandic Krona, or just under $15. We sat outside, they had free wifi, and a firm grasp on what vegan means. It was perfect.

Then we continued walking down the main tourist drag. At Bankastræti 7, is Hostelling International’s “Loft” location in Reykjavik (can you believe that they have 33 hostels in Iceland?!?). We wouldn’t have even noticed, except the sign below was sitting outside on the street:

Sign outside of Hostelling International

Sign outside of Hostelling International. A vegan wrap and a vegan butternut soup!

Hostelling International Reykjavik – Loft

We didn’t eat there, as we had just eaten, but it was such a nice surprise to see.

The big discount grocery store in Iceland is called BÓNUS. We went in on our first afternoon in Reykjavik to buy supplies to cook dinner. If you want to travel on a budget, cooking for yourself is a big key. We have only been purchasing, maximum, one meal a day. This makes sticking to our budget easy as pie.

Vegan hazelnut – white chocolate duo spread.

I would have killed for this spread, but alas, 4 days in Reykjavik is not long enough to eat the whole thing (without getting very sick), and we aren’t checking any bags on our next flight. So that is a sad Molly.

Dinner and a malt beverage

Dinner and a malt beverage

But the meal above cost about $2.50 per person, per meal, and we each got 3 dinners out of it. It was a half kilo of pasta, potatoes, chickpeas, mushrooms, spinach, and a jar of tomato sauce. Filling, healthy, tasty, and cheap! And that malt drink? That is most certainly Dan’s. That brand has existed for 100 years and is brewed right in Reykjavik. We saw the brewery. Also, we learned something interesting. Real adult beverages (pretty much anything with an alcohol percentage over 3%) can only be sold in state-owned liquor stores or bars in Iceland. Try as we might to find a liquor store, we could not. So Dan never got to taste anything other than Iceland-made light beers. Womp womp.

C is for Cookie

C is for Cookie

Happy Cow made mention of a coffee spot with vegan cake, and between Dan’s insane jet lag and my constant need for vegan cake, we thought we would stop by. Unfortunately for us, we got there at 6:10pm, and C is for Cookie closes at 6. Woops! But it did look like a very adorable coffee shop, in a super cute neighborhood on the top of a small hill.

Today, we were walking around the port area of Reykjavik and I spied an ice cream place with a cute sign.

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Can you find the word vegan?

Can you find the word vegan?

They had two flavors marked with the (v), so we ordered a scoop of each! I double checked with someone working there, and the cones are not vegan, so we had the sorbet in a cup.

Pineapple on top and strawberry/raspberry on the bottom

This was super tasty on a warm and sunny Reykjavik day. It was sorbet, not ice cream, but it was super smooth and creamy and I highly recommend it.

Then we continued our walk and we spied 2 veggie-friendly places on our way to our lunch spot.

Health food store, Heilsuhusid, on Laugavegur the main pedestrian drag.

Gló Restaurant. A healthy restaurant chain with vegan and raw options

After walking for hours and taking in Reykjavik on another beautiful day (have we been lucky or what?), we finally made it to our lunch destination, the vegetarian restaurant Gardurinn, or Ecstasy’s Heart Garden in English.

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Also located right downtown, this restaurant has a set menu each day, one soup and one main. Not all of the food is vegan, so the day before we made a point to go by the restaurant and look over the menu for the week to check on the vegan-ness of the options for the rest of our stay. As it turns out, the entire rest of the week is vegan.

Carrot loaf with rice and a salad

Portuguese white cabbage soup with bread and hummus

We got a small soup and small entree combo for 1750 Icelandic Krona, or about $14.50. They were super tasty. The carrot loaf was made up of veggies, nuts and rice, with a tomato topping. This was a delicious, affordable, and well balanced meal.

a “snickers” for dessert

The same might not be able to be said about dessert – this raw dessert cost us about $4.50 – but it was worth it.

Then we went to a museum and walked some more. I had seen on signs all around the city advertising ice cream bars and cones a packaged cone called “Rice”. I had been searching for it to see if it was perhaps rice milk based and possibly vegan, when after 3 days of searching I finally found it in the oldest part of town in a grocery store. The best we could decipher, it was vegan. I even asked a checkout guy to help, but there is no Icelandic on the label! He read the Swedish the best he could (it had been a few years for him since he last spoke it, but all Icelanders learn a Scandinavian language in school), and everything he said indicated to me that the “Rice” cones were dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan. So Dan and I each had to have one! Can you sense my excitement?

Vegan ice cream cones. Happy day!

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They were as sweet as can be, and about $5 a piece, but totally worth it.

So, in conclusion, being vegan in Reykjavik is totally doable. There is tofu in the discount grocery store, veggie restaurants serving up delectable vegan meals, and ice cream cones in the corner market. If only it wasn’t dark and cold 8 months out of the year! But, seriously, do not let concerns about eating vegan keep you from seeing all that Iceland has to offer. With a little preparation and planning it is easy to eat vegan and stick to a budget in Reykjavik.

The privilege of being vegan in NYC

New-Vegan-Hop-Logo-150

Vegan Hop

“New York City. Center of the universe.”

New York skyline taken from Queens

New York skyline. Photo credit goes to Dan

New York City has been the center of my universe my entire life. I was born here, I was raised here, it is the place I am always happy to come home to. It is not, however, the place I went vegan. I went vegan in college, upstate in Rochester, New York. Rochester is also where Dan and I met. But immediately after college Dan and I moved down to the City so I could be back where I belong. With my people. People who understand my need to walk as fast as possible at all times. New Yorkers are a special breed and I feel lucky to be able to call myself a native. But New York isn’t just full of people who have places to be, it is full of vegan food.

Dan and I have been spoiled. His entire vegan life, and mine since college ended, has been spent in a place with (according to supervegan.com, my favorite site for all things vegan in NYC) 64 vegan restaurants and 120 vegetarian restaurants. We don’t eat out much, as it is expensive and not conducive to saving money to travel the world, but when we do it is almost exclusively at vegan or vegetarian restaurants.

Now, when I am outside of the City and I am in a place that doesn’t have easy access to vegan food I get grumpy. Iceberg lettuce and french fries? AGAIN?!? But Dan and I will have to learn. We will have to learn because “vegan” is not common everywhere. Including many of the places we are heading off to. 6 months on the road internationally will certainly teach us where “veganism” is a thing that exists and where it isn’t. I’m sure there will be gems along the way, and we will certainly search out vegan restaurants, but we will not be eating exclusively at vegan restaurants. We will be explaining to people all over the world what we do and do not eat. To mangle a quote from Finding Nemo: “Animals are friends, not food”. Though there may not be vegan restaurants in every city all over the world, I know there are vegans everywhere. If they can do it, we can too.

Time to learn the words for “meat”, “dairy”, and “eggs” in 50 languages!