From my few experiences visiting France, and hearing from others who have been, I have to say I wasn’t terribly excited at the prospect of trying to survive as a vegan on my trip to Lyon. As you may know, France is not the most vegetarian friendly (forget about vegan friendly!).
Let’s start at the beginning, with breakfast at the airport. We flew out of Birmingham and arrived with enough time to sit down for a nice meal before our flight. Giraffe recently opened up in the airport, and they have lots of really nice veggie options on the menu, so that was our restaurant of choice. I already kind of knew what I wanted as soon as I glanced at the menu (avocado and red pepper hummus on sourdough toast), but still had to check that it was vegan. The server had to ask her manager who said it wasn’t vegan because the “hummus isn’t vegan”… well that doesn’t sound right. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a non-vegan hummus. Anyway, she gave me the iPad which has an app to filter vegan items, and sure enough, my dish was listed as vegan so I went ahead and ordered the meal. Plus a side of roasted mushrooms.
I really had zero expectations about this dish, so when it came out looking SO beautiful and bountiful, with big, green, perfectly ripe slices of avocado, I was over the moon. The dish was so tasty and one of the nicest vegan breakfasts I’ve eaten in a restaurant. Seriously good grub.
We arrived a little late in Lyon on a rainy Sunday evening and met up with our friends at our shared Airbnb flat. They had already done a bit of research for vegan food in Lyon using Happy Cow (even though both are meat eaters), and found a place that does vegan burgers called La Mouss’tache. So, after a couple hours of catching up at a wine bar over some lovely French wines, off we went.
The restaurant is more of a bar than restaurant, serving classic bar food like burgers, hot dogs and chips. There is only one veggie option, which three of us ordered. The burger constisted of a potato rösti served with mixed cold chargrilled vegetables, guacamole, balsamic dressing and rocket, plus a side of chips. It was really good! Some seriously awesome chips were had here and everyone polished off their plates with many nods and grunts of satisfaction.
The next morning we scarfed down some lovely French baguettes with jam and headed off for a morning wine tour (I know I know, but it was the only one we could book). On the way our tour guide was describing all the good restaurants and food in Lyon, but it was all meat, meat, meat. When I asked him, “and what about for vegetarians?” He laughed and replied, “um…. do you like salads?” Typical 😉
We arrived back in Lyon a bit late, so decided to head to the Les Halles de Lyon food market to grab some food to take back to the flat. We found a mediterranean food stall that had loads of lovely veggie dishes, including falafels, hummus, tabbouleh, roasted veggies and little fried veggie parcels. We ordered a mix of things to share for four people and choked a little when we realized we had just spent €73! I’m fairly certain the words “this better be the best hummus in the world” were uttered among our group a few times.
Luckily for us, the food was very tasty. However, some of the fried veggie parcels did have cheese in them. There was one that was vegan with pickled curried veggies, but I can’t remember the name of it unfortunately.
That evening we explored the city by foot, as it was the first time in two days it wasn’t pouring rain. It’s a beautiful city – very hilly with lovely architecture, winding cobblestone roads, and views of the white capped Alps in the distance (apparently they got dumped on in May?!).
After our little walking tour, we decided to pop into a little, bustling Italian restaurant in a busy section of the old town, as they had some vegan pasta options for me. I ordered a large avocado, tomato salad (“sans salmon”) and the penne arrabiata – a classic vegan fallback. The salad was so tasty and the avocados, again, were big, green, ripe and much tastier than in the UK for some reason (maybe it was all that wine we were drinking). The penne arrabiata was also very good, and VERY spicy. But I like it hot, so no complaints here.
Lyon was lovely, and I didn’t find it difficult to eat vegan while we were there. My only complaint was we didn’t fully get to enjoy our trip because of the horrible cold, wet, stormy weather, but there’s not much we can do about that.
In my next blog post I’ll explore our vegan adventures in Paris, and some of my tips for surviving as a vegan in France.