Dearest Blog Reader Folks,
I am devastated to be back in a cold, harsh, wet world of reality. C and I went off to Paris for a few days last week, returning late last night. I’m slightly ashamed to confess that, amongst my other mystery health concerns, it seems I have a whopper of a B12 deficiency. Ooops. Bad vegan. But my treatment hasn’t started yet so I’ve spent a lot of time lately wandering around in rather a daze.
HOWEVER. If there’s one thing I was determined to do, it was to EAT. I’ve been to Paris a few times now, the first time being in 2006 and the most recent in 2012. It seems that in the past few years, the vegan scene has gone BOOM, and I was very excited to check out the newer places that have popped up……..
Here are some general Paris tips if it’s your first time; technology’s much improved since I first visited and I took advantage of the super cheap £2 a day data usage via O2 while I was there. I’d recommend doing that if your operator has a similar offer.
- Check out the very handy (and free) Paris Metro app. I used it frequently to figure out the best route between two locations or stations. It includes the RER (train) stations as well as the Metro (underground) ones.
- Buy yourself a carnet (book) of tickets if you plan to hop around the city using the Metro/RER a lot. It’s still only €14.10 for a bundle of 10 tickets and each one is a single journey on either the Metro, RER or bus. That’s pretty much £1 per journey which isn’t bad at all. (It was pretty disappointing when I arrived back in London and paid £4.80 to travel one stop on the tube…..)
- If it’s your first visit, consider going on one of those horribly vulgar tourist bus or boat tours. Check out the websites first (there are at least a couple of different companies offering tours) and see if it’s cheaper to book online in advance and/or to arrive early. These might seem a bit uncivilised but it’s a great way to get an overview of all the sights while you sit on your bum. You can take photos from an open top bus/boat and usually can hop on and off too.
- Neverrrrrrrrrrrr buy tickets from randoms who approach you in train stations or at bus stops. Someone tried this on us the second we arrived and he scarpered once he realised I knew a bit of French and also kept trying to look at his “ID”.
- Stick your cash down your pants if you have to. I’ve seen loads of folks get pickpocketed in Paris. My poor boyfriend had his wallet stolen by a gaggle of swarming young women trying to get him to sign a ‘petition’. On the upside, filing the police report was pretty straightforward……
- Jump loadsa queues to some of the ‘big’ attractions by booking online in advance. I sure wish I’d done this for the Louvre (though to be honest, we didn’t have to wait for too long).
- If you don’t fancy queueing for the Eiffel Tower (only to get herded around in no time at all and not be able to see through the mesh fencing) then consider scaling the Montparnasse Tower instead. It’s cheaper, quieter, has the fastest lift in Europe, and AMAZING 360° views that include the Eiffel Tower. Even the beer isn’t too expensive…..
- Have a teeny little go at speaking French. The Parisian folk will appreciate the effort, and will probably just start talking to you in English. But so long as you try, you’re more likely to receive a friendly welcome 🙂
- When shopping in health food stores or the supermarket look out for “100% Végétal” on labels. (This means “totally flipping vegan”.)
Le Potager Du Marais
When we arrived at our wee little studio apartment in the 1eme on the first day, we’d both been travelling since about 5/6am respectively. My French isn’t too shabby, but being faced immediately with city centre Parisian rush hour was a bit overbearing even for me, so I was definitely up for some spoiling that first evening. We’d half intended to grab a burger on our first night, but Le Potager du Marais was only 0.3 miles away (GOD BLESS YOU, HAPPY COW) and I quite fancied some posh French grub and glugging a few glasses of vin rouge de maison…… All the reviews tell you to book if you want to eat here, but obvs we just wandered down and crossed our weary fingers (very organised). We were allowed to cram in for one hour before the next reservation arrived, so we decided to sacrifice starters and stuck with mains and pud, and a tremendously welcome carafe of wine.
Le Potager du Marais is 100% vegan and although it’s a little pricier than some of the other veggie/vegan offerings in Paris, the food is TREMENDOUS. The place is cosy and charming and it’s well worth a visit for some ~authentic~ French vegan cooking. The closest Metro stop is Rambuteau.
We headed out the next day for lunch at Café Ginger. We knew it was a bit of a healthy place, but we didn’t let that stop us (especially considering all the ice cream/cake I also intended to eat while in Paris). This is a cosy little cafe with more or less one menu option; or, one gluten free option (a fine looking nut roast thingy while we were there) and a non-gluten free option. This non GF option is usually a wee pie or flan type thing, with 2 or 3 flavours on offer. If I recall correctly, €13.50 gets you the full ‘plate’ with a drink. €5 extra gets you either the soup or a dessert. Feeling a bit stuffed still from the night before, we each went for the soup and the gluten-packed pie/flan with salad.
Un Monde Vegan (Vegan World)
Because we rented a studio with a wee kitchenette, we bought some grocery items so we could cook a dinner or two, and make a packed lunch if we wanted. Health food store Naturalia has loads of branches in Paris, and you’ll be able to buy some basic items here like plant milks, vegan spread (tartine) and some meat substitutes like seitan and tempeh. HOWEVER, for the full, 100% thrilling vegan experience, definitely pay a visit to this amazing shop.
Un Monde Vegan sells eeeeeeeverything you could want, pretty much. It has the most amazing selection of ‘meats’ and ‘cheeses’. We more or less died when we found a bag of croissants.We stocked up on some bits and pieces including (to my unending joy) BANANA SOJADE. We also found some TOFUBUTTER which got me uber excited. Sadly, it was more like flavourless yoghurt spread then anything else. Would not recommend :/
Un Monde Vegan is worth a visit even if you’re staying in catered accommodation. It has an amazing selection of German and other imported ‘meats’ and ‘cheeses’ as well as American and British items in stock. The closest Metro stop is Temple or Strasbourg Saint-Denis.
Hank (Vegan Burger)
Hank was super and possibly my favourite food destination during our trip, mostly for the uber cheap price and the prospect of burger and beer after a bit of an exhausting day of wandering. For €14 we each chose a burger, a side (we went for wedges), a beer (choice of 3 including gluten free) and a dessert. There are also GF bread options. Vegan mayo is available in big squirty bottles on each table. We went with a lovely chestnut beer which was super tasty. I chose the L’Allumé burger (smoked BBQ sauce and peppers). There’s also a rotating special.
I was REALLY looking forward to a visit to Las Vegans after seeing all the incredibly yummy looking food on their Facebook page. Unfortunately they were closed for the first 3 days of our visit, due to (I think) delivery of a new chiller unit and some reorganising. So when we arrived they didn’t have any hotdogs or similarly indulgent hot food on offer. I had a perfectly tasty ‘chicken’ noodle pot, though, and mostly looked forward to checking out the ice cream counter.
I think my favourite flavour was the Blackforest, and it looks like the flavours change around pretty often. Las Vegans is a small outlet and it seems fairly new. It looked pretty popular amongst the local vegans though, who (I guess) can’t really get this sort of indulgent fare elsewhere. I also had a super hot chocolate and my man had a fancy pumkpin spice latte, which he reported was very tasty. I was sad not to be able to try out any of the other hot food, but I still think this place is worth a visit (but maybe arrive earlier in the day!) The closest Metro station (very close) is Bonne Nouvelle.
Our final vegan-food-tour stop was cake shop Vegan Folies. I visited this shop in 2012, back when it was one of the very few vegan outlets in Paris. At the time, I tried a few of the very tasty cupcakes. This time, cheesecake had taken over the window, which was very nice to see.
Vegan Folies isn’t tremendously cheap, but there aren’t many places where you’ll find more traditional (vegan) French desserts. I’m happy to see that this shop is still enjoying success and hopefully it won’t be the only vegan bakery in Paris in another 3 years’ time. The closest Metro stop is Place Monge.
And so, these were our vegan Parisian adventures this time around. Here are some other places we could have visited, but didn’t have time:
- Tien Hiang
- Brasserie Lola
- Gentle Gourmet Café (now closed)
- Grand Appétit (now closed)
- Loving Hut
- Sol Semilla
You should also keep an eye on www.parisvegan.com for news as it happens 🙂
Obviously, being back in Manchester, along with the wind and the rain, is a bit of a rude shock. I am pleased to have found out I will be getting some super duper B12 injections this week and next which I hope will bring me back to life before Christmas gets too close.
I am missing that French bread somethin’ awful, and might need to dig out my Vegan Boulangerie book very soon :'(
Added February 2017: 7 Spots for Vegan Eats in Paris