VEGAN CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS

Christmas shopping… Love it or hate it. Busy city streets, shops filled to the brim with either decorations, pretty lights, or people going bananas. Wether you prefer to endure the physical endeavour of visiting the shops, or go on an online shopping frenzy…  we have some tips for you, and your vegan (or non-vegan gift recipients!)
A vegan lifestyle can mean so much more than just a vegan diet, so we’re listing a couple of shops, webshops,… that extend veganism in various directions.

Bazaar Deluxe is a fashion brand that operates from Belgium. Hsuan and Michal design clothes for the vocal vegans among us. Tank tops, t-shirts, sweatshirts… all of which are fabricated in an eco friendly and cruelty free manner!

By Blanch is an ethical and vegan shoe brand, based in France. Owned by Mireia M. Blanch, born and raised in Barcelona, and passionate about cruelty free fashion, and her plant-based diet!
Personally, I’ve had my eye on these pretty green boots ever since I spotted them at the vegan fair in Brussels. Just look at them!!!

Dr. Martens
Many of you might know, some of you might not, But you can get your hands on some awesome vegan Docs. We both like them a lot, and will probably always have a pair in our closet, or on our feet.

Joeke Vandermeer makes some of the most original and beautiful illustrations of animals. Recently she started making mugs, dinner plates, bowls, everything to embellish your christmas table, and wow your guests…
We love her stuff!

Lush has quite an array of vegan cosmetics available, but we’re primarily stoked on the vegan-friendly bath bombs. They have special christmas versions available during the holiday season!

Etsy is also a home for a lot of our creative vegan friends. You can find an almost infinite amount of fun stuff on there, and buy directly from the creator!

Ofcourse a coupon for their/your/our favorite restaurant is always an option.
We love eating at De Gastvrijheid , Loving Hut,  or De Levensboom
All of these restaurants are located in Belgium.

Or choose to support local charities, animal shelters…
They will always welcome helping hands, and donations!!

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!!!

A LUXURIOUS WEEKEND IN LONDON

A couple of details of our short stay in London will have to remain secret for contractual reasons. However, we will be able to share the most interesting stuff anyway

On November 3rd, we arrived late in the afternoon. We immediately checked in at our hotel,  the beautiful Trafalgar St. James, right at Trafalgar Square, London.
A Nelson Double Queen Room had been reserved for us. Spatious, Beautiful, Luxurious. A lot more luxurious than we would book for ourselves, to be honest, but we wouldn’t want to complain!

 


After a quick wardrobe change, we took the tube to The Underworld, in Camden.
Battery was scheduled to play there. They supported NY hardcore legends Cro-Mags.
The show was sold out, but through Mike, a good friend of Kristof, who plays guitar in Battery, we managed to get in anyway.
Battery is a hardcore band hailing from Washington, DC. They split up somewhere in the late 90’s, which meant that Kristof had been waiting since his late teens to see them again. I hadn’t heard of them prior to meeting Kristof, and however I don’t regularly listen to hardcore, i really enjoyed the energy during their set, and witnessing the joy in Kristof’s eyes made it a memorable show, to say the least.

 

After the show, we needed food. I know, we’re predictable.
We decided on Dou Dou. It was right across the street from The Underworld.
Dou Dou is a Chinese and Thai inspired all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, that serves nothing but beautiful and delicious vegan dishes. And it does so very cheaply too. 5,90£ for lunch, 6,90£ for dinner and during the weekend. If you plan on visiting them, do bring cash, no card payments possible here. (Also take-away possible!!!)
Safe to say we went back for multiple rounds, and tried pretty much everything they had on offer, which counts for about 40 different preparations!!!

It had been a very long day, so after out bellies were full we decided to head back to the hotel, to shower, bathe and relax in the room for a while. We’re not party animals, so a good night sleep was next on the to do-list.

Day Two:

Hackney Downs Vegan Market.
I read some amazing things about this vegan market online, and on other blogs. (fatgayvegan.com) It’s a little out of the city centre but seriously worth the ride. We took an underground and overground to get there.
First piece of advice: Go EARLY! The market’s from 11 am to 5 pm and some of the stalls start selling out already around 1.30. We did get there in time, and the presence of a little rain may be the reason the market was a little less busy than usual.

 

For starters we shared the Korean BBQ Bahn Mi baguette from Eat Chay.
Liz and Calum were very informative and engaging, and even up for a picture!
The Bahn Mi was out of this world, too good!

 


We als couldn’t resist the amazing burger and grilled cheese smell from The Temple Of Seitan. If you need a cheeseburger, and you don’t want it to look as healthy as many vegan burgers tend to do? Check out their burgers. but don’t let the looks deceive you. they are 100% vegan, not that greasy and overly delicious!

 

Once again we ate too much, in too little time. We felt the need to walk it off, and just took the overground back into Liverpool Street Station and went on by foot.
Walking past The Shard we remembered Borough Market. A British couple had recommended it to us, when we sat next to their table at the beach in Barcelona.
We didn’t expect there would be any vegan food, but Big V had a booth there (they were also present at the Hackney Downs market)! So… We ordered the chimichurri. Vegan chorizo, on a crusty ciabatta, spicy chimichurri sauce, pickled peppers & onion! Fingerlicking good!

 

We went on following the southern bank of the river Thames, on found ourselves at the entrance of the Tate Modern Musuem. Musea, are a must almost everywhere we go, since we are both a little passionate about art as well. The Tate Modern exhibited a collection of Mark Rothko masterpieces. Kristof’s favourite. We strolled through the rooms like we always do, and even took the time to climb a what seemed infinite amount of stairs to reach the observation deck of the museum. There are elevators though, but they were always full, and we didn’t want to wait it out.

 

Crossing the Millenium Bridge, passing St. Paul’s Cathedral we headed back towards our hotel to freshen up, and have another little bite to eat.
By now we had lost count on how many Pret-A-Manger places there were (Seriously, how many, in London alone, must be over 300) that we couldn’t resist entering one, to check out if they had anything vegan for us. We’re thrilled to inform you that they do!
We had a Latte with coconut milk, a peppermint tea, and an avocado & chipotle chickpea salad wrap. And there are more options available, great!!! Nothing too fancy thought, but it’s great to know that you have a vegan option around practically every corner.

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Afterwards we headed over to the Piccadilly and Regent Street area, where city workers were hanging the christmas lights and we intended to do some evening shopping. We got to Antropologie, one of my favourite stores to visit. Everything from fashion to interior design, you can find here. They have a living wall, with plants expanding over 3 stories high, and a special “husband storage”, with a comfortable sofa..

 

Kristof was a champ and didn’t need to be put there! On the other hand, that meant that he had an opinion about everything i touched. Well, you can’t have it all!
With having walked about 20km (12,5 miles) we went back to the hotel to rest our feet and our bodies.

Day Three:

We got up bright and early for our complementary breakfast. The avocado on toast was pretty great! But… no time to waste. Right on the other side of Trafalgar square the National Gallery basked in early sunday sunlight.
The entrance is free, but you are kind of required to put some money into the donation box. An amount of your own choice. Perfectly acceptable!
The National Gallery is an entirely different beast than the Tate Modern. It harbours masterpieces of the most renowned classical artists the world has ever known. From Leonardo Da Vinci, to Van Gogh, Monet,…
We particularly enjoyed the Turners on display. William Turner is best known for his expressive landscape an marine themes. If you want to immerse yourself in classical art, the National Gallery is an absolute must.

 

We left the Gallery at about noon, and we were supposed to be picked up at the hotel at 3.30pm, which meant we had another 3 hours to spend. If you don’t know is by now, you might be surprised that we decided on spending some more time feeding ourselves.
We knew about a Wagamama restaurant close by. Wagamama is a chain of Asian restaurants that spread over 20 countries, and have over 140 restaurants.
They just started with their vegan menu, and we were very keen on trying some of it out.
It is so refreshing to have a seperate menu for vegans (or vegetarians) with more than one option, in a larger chain of restaurants.
I ordered the Kare Burosu Ramen, which is basically a spicy curry vegetable broth with tofu and grilled mushrooms. Kristof had the Warm Chilli Yasai Salad, with tofu, stir fried red peppers, tenderstem broccoli…

 

Both were very quickly delivered to the table, and extremely satisfying to eat.
We also took the time to have a little dessert. A pink guava and passion fruit sorbet, and a lemongrass and lime sorbet. Both were delicious, and a very nice touch after a somewhat spicy main course.
Staff were extremely friendly, and interested in hearing about our trip, one of the servers even sat down at our table for a quick chat. That probably won’t happen when the place is packed, but it does feel very nice when it’s a little calmer. As a professional once told us: When the place is a little less packed, it gives us the chance to give a little extra attention to the customer. A lesson well learned here at Wagamama.

That would conclude our little stay in London. A driver in a fancy Mercedes pulled up to the hotel lobby to pick us up, and drop us off ant St. Pancras Station. Right before hopping onto the Eurostar Train back to Brussels, we raided the in-station Marks & Spencer.  We found a Butternut Squash & Tabblouleh wrap, a Chestnut Roast wrap, and Roasted Veg sandwich (with avocado, chilli squash on red pepper bread – our favourite..), all of which were vegan, qnd were happily consumed on the 2 hour train ride into Brussels.

 

We are very happy that large chains start offering ready-to-go vegan options.
We also hope that a lot of Mainland European chains will follow suit sooner rather than later!

 

Stefanie.

Have you been to London? Got something you want to share with us? Or want to reply to this article, click here.

 

FLASH VISIT TO VEGGIEWORLD BRUSSELS

Veggieworld is an organisation that sets up conventions in multiple European cities, in order to introduce people to a complete vegan lifestyle. So not just food, but also shoes, clothes, cosmetics, animal rights, … the lot.

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This weekend (Oct. 21 &22) Tour & Taxis was home to the very first Veggieworld in the city of Brussels. We went early and on a empty stomach. So clearly today we were particularly interested in food

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Every food stand at the convention, had multiple samples available, and we didn’t skip any of them. We also tasted the eggsalad from V-box. It is amazing, and we had to take some home for lunch tomorrow. They also had a selection of topped donuts available, of which we tried the charcoal chocolate donut. Kristof could not resist..

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After listening to guestspeakers, a quick chat with Hsuan, who makes some real funky shirts and sweaters (check out: https://www.bazaardeluxe.be) and sampling some more we were hungry again! We queued at the “Waffles Veg” stand. Kristof chose a Kentucky Waffle Sandwich with seitan, grilled onions, vegan cheese and a tarragon sauce. I’m a sweet tooth, so I went with a warm Liege Waffle.

To walk off some of these calories, we went on exploring some more booths.
We met Joeke Vandermeer (www.instagram.com/joekevandermeer) , who makes beautiful tableware and prints. Her webshop is gonna be online soon, so hello christmas presents!

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Eva vzw is the Belgian partner for Veggieworld. They had a big booth with a lot of info about going vegan. They gave us a map of Brussels with vegan hotspots on, so expect a Brussels blogpost soon.

After all that food there is only one thing we can do… go home and watch a movie.
On the sofa.. It’s sunday after all.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

 

Stefanie.

If you want to share something about Veggieworld, in Brussels or anywhere else.. or want to reply to this article, click here

A THREE DAY BATTERY CHARGE IN BARCELONA!

Ahhh Barcelona…
For us it’s one of those cities with an undeniable, infectious buzz.
No matter how many times you visit, there’s always something new. There are so many options when eating vegan in Barcelona, but we could only visit, and list a few this time around. I guess we’ll have to return to report about those other hidden gems.

Monday, September 25th. We departed from Brussels Airport early in the morning, and found ourselves on Spanish (Or Catalan?) soil around 11am. It was still a couple of days before the turbulent referendum, so we’ll call it Spanish, for now.

We exited the airport and decided to use public transport to get around the city, like we do most of the time. We both got our Hola 3-day (72hrs) card from the vending machine and jumped onto the metro, and headed straight for the hotel (Ibis Plaza Glories 22) to drop off our luggage.

After quickly checking the Happy Cow app ,we walked to Aquari Bay. It was relatively close to the hotel, and in the general direction of the beach, which we were headed for anyway.

It’s a nice little restaurant with a cool atmosphere. You can choose a spot inside, or outside. We ended up inside.

We ordered the sharing platter with tofu tzatziki, catalan hummus , roasted aubergines, cassava chips and corn tortillas and the meditarrean azuki kofta croquettes with macerated zuccini in mint and fresh chillies with greek yoghurt. (Ask for the vegan version so they’ll swap the yoghurt!). The menu is stacked with interesting dishes, and everything we saw in the hands of passing staff looked absolutely delicious. If you find yourself a mile or two north of the city center, we can highly recommend this place.

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With our stomachs filled we took on the beachside walk towards the city center, passing the marina, and taking a little break for a cocktail not really worth mentioning. We noticed that a lot of squares and open spaces were filled with stages and such. The city was readying itself for the last day of La Mercé Festival, a multi-day street festival in Barcelona. We didn’t know about it beforehand, and decided not to head for Plaça D’Espanya to watch the fireworks and music spectacle.
Instead we met up with Charlotte (Kristof’s “sister”), who had been working in Barcelona for a few months. First we went for cocktails at the local Hard Rock Café, while discussing where we would eat later on.
Charlotte is not vegan nor vegetarian, but she did recommend Teresa Carles Cocina Vegetariana, which is a vegetarian restaurant with different vegan options.
We decided on the Seitan Hamburger with french fries, the Lasanyuki (a delicious lasagna) and the Rosseat De Fideus (toasted noodles with seaweed and mushrooms).
Apologies are in order, since we totally dove into our heavenly meals, and forgot to document the perfection photographically. Sorry, not sorry. (We promise to go back!)
Charlotte had a bottle of H2O, for Stefanie, a “Virus Killer” (pear, purified water, ginger, lemon, raw honey, echinacea, thyme, maria luisa, rock tea (jasonia glutinosa), and for Kristof a “My Sweet Horny Juice” (pineapple, melon, coconut water, aloe, maca).

Afterwards we dropped Charlotte off at her appartment, found a nearby metro station, and went on back to the hotel, for a hot shower and a good night sleep.

For our second day we planned a trip to Park Guell. If anyone is responsible for shaping the aesthetic of Barcelona, it must be Antoni Gaudi. Every Gaudi piece looks like it was made for a fairytale. Make sure you take time to explore all the must-see Gaudi buildings during your visit! The man is an architectural genius! We skipped a few of them this time, because we had visited them before.
At the moment Park Guell is under construction, and a for a few areas you’ll have to pay admission. If you have your heart set on sitting on the famous mozaïc benches, book your ticket online to skip the cue.

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While walking to the park, we found Zuum.
They have a variation of salads, wraps and smoothies. We went for a smoothie and a smoked hummus, paprika and mushroom wrap to go.

We had a picknick looking out on Park Guell, perfect views!

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The park itself was pretty crowded that day. And a little overwhelmed by street vendors, selling junk basically. One sells scarfs, the next sells coloured lizards, the next one selfie – sticks, the next one scarfs again, and repeat. There must have been 100 of them,
We also heard the words ‘water, one euro’ about a million times.

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We walked through the city, looking forward to having dinner at Cat Bar, but found it closed that day. So much for winging it! Don’t make our mistake. If there are musts on the list, make sure to check the opening hours!
Instead we went to a beachbar for some mocktails and tapas (patatas bravas, olives. ..
After that.. time for bed.

Last day of our short citybreak…

For our mid morning snack we went to La Boqueria.
La Boqueria is Barcelona’s most famous food market where you can find just about everything under the sun. (a lof of meat and fish too, though)
Upon entering, you’ll find a rainbow array of smoothies and fresh fruit.

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We stumbled upon “Organic Barcelona” with some amazing looking burritos. We went for the 10 euro mix plate. Vegetable paella, hummus, lettuce, salad and a burrito of your choice. We went for the spicy one.
Not everything is vegan, so ask for it!

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Since no visit to Barcelona is complete without checking La Sagrada Familia, we decided that our noon was best spent at the beautiful cathedral.

The cathedral that has been under construction since 1833. We hope we can see it completed in our lifetime! We didn’t do the inside tour, since waiting times were very long, and we had a plane to catch… but we can assure you it is beautiful!

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If you wanna visit the inside, we would recommend booking your tickets in advance so you don’t have to cue for hours or miss out altogether!

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If there ever was an ideal place to get lost, the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona would be it. So that’s what we did in the afternoon. Throw aside all plans and spend a few hours simply meandering through the endless maze of intriguing alleyways, quaint shopfronts, hip bars and Gothic architecture. We spent hours wandering through these streets.
We found some lovely vintage shops, an lp store and some really cozy cafe’s.
Sit down on a terrace , enjoy the sun, drink some mocktails and enjoy the tapas!

Barcelona, we’ll be back soon!

 

How to get around:

Getting around in Barcelona is pretty easy. In our opinion, walking is always the best way to get from place to place as it allows you to get a feel for the city and see all the beautiful buildings. We walked around 20 km every day.

Barcelona has a great public transport network of metros and buses. We used the hola 72 hours pass to get around by metro if we didn’t felt like walking. If you are going to use public transport during your visit, your best option is to pre-purchase a transport pass for the duration of your time in the city.

The city is also very bike-friendly with their bikelanes and lots of rental possibilities.
So biking our way through the city is on our list for the next visit.

Where to stay:
This time we stayed in Ibis hotel. However there are loads of fun hostels, air b&b’s and hotels in Barcelona..

Have you been to Barcelona? Got something fun to add to our food hotspots? Or want to reply to this article, click here.

A SHORT ADVENTURE ON TWO WHEELS: ZEALAND, NETHERLANDS.

A couple of weeks before the summer, I bought a new motorcycle. (A Yamaha XV950R, for the enthusiasts.) Since my band had a gig scheduled in the city of Goes on the 28th of July, I immediately started mapping a route, and browsing the net for places to stay, and places to eat.
The route would take us through woods, over quieter roads and along the banks of the river Scheldt almost completely to our destination.
The gig eventually was cancelled, but we decided to proceed as planned, to make it an unforgettable weekend.
Unfortunally the weather did not always agree with us.. Summers in Zealand can be quite tricky. Wind is pretty much a constant, and it can go from clear to grey and back again rather quickly. We experienced some showers during the whole weekend, but nothing to render our trip unpleasant. It was cloudy but dry most of the time.

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Our home for 3 days was Hotel Katoen in Goes.
The building, once used as the city archive, was heavily renovated prior to the hotels’ opening, but retained its historical appeal on the outside. On the inside it has a more industrial look and feel, but remains warm and cozy at the same time. Katoen (cotton) refers to the cotton industry from the old days, so the interior was decorated with subtle hints to that heritage.

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We had booked one of the comfort rooms, with private entrance on the roof.
The room was modern, clean, cosy and the staff was very friendly.
We chose to have our breakfasts at the hotel, and have our other meals at local trip destinations, like we had planned beforehand.

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The first evening, however, we decided to check the menu of Brasserie Katoen, which is attached to the hotel. We found a vegetarian fresh pasta with olives, tomato, basil and smoked paprika. It turned out to be the best pasta we ever ate, probably, maybe…
The restaurant and kitchen staff were very accommodating, and would probably pull a vegan rabbit out of the hat on request. Oh, the cocktails/mocktails were pretty awesome too.

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The next day we strapped ourselves to the motorcycle and headed for Zierikzee.
A relatively small quaint village north of Goes. To get there we had to cross one of the many bridges that connect the islands of Zealand to the mainland in spectacular fashion.
This particular bridge, the Zealandbridge is about 5 km long.
Arriving in Zierikzee we found old buildings, narrow cobbled streets and a very infectious atmosphere. The sun was out, spirits were high.
But we got real hungry, real quick.

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De Zeeuwse Hemel was truly a delight.
The perfect garden backdrop to make some holiday memories over some amazing food.
We shared an avocado filled with hummus, fresh herbs, paprika, spicy ajvar, spring onion and lime. Sooooo good! Gimme more please.
And for main we chose a sweet carrot curry with smoked tofu, almonds, chili, coriander seeds and ginger served over lentle rice, oatmeal cream and nigella seeds.

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Helmets fastened, gloves on, backpack secured. On to Middelburg, The capital of Zeeland. To get there, we had to cross another marvel of Dutch engineering. One of the most impressive flood barriers of the entire Delta Works Project are located in Zealand: the Oosterscheldekering (Eastern Scheldt Barrier). Some call it the Eighth Wonder of the World. The towers and gates can be closed when water levels are dangerously high. The Delta Works were built after the flood disaster of 1953.
It’s really impressive, but remember: crosswinds can make it pretty hairy on the bike!
We arrived at our next stop in the afternoon and decided to park the bike, and discover the town on foot.  Middelburg is known as a monumental town with a wealth of historical buildings. The facades reflect, some even glow, their former wealth. Today, a rich blend of events, shops, bars and restaurants make it a lively place. A nice town to wander around. Which we did. After the obligatory chillax-break, with some ginger ale, and a little nacho dish with tomato salsa, we continued and made our way through the smaller streets and marketplaces to find Stoom.

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Stoom is hard to describe. It’s located in the trainstation of Middelburg. A lot of people coming through, for a quick bite or a coffee to go. Most items on their menu are either vegan or vegetarian, which might seem a little strange in this setting. We couldn’t be happier about it though.
We decided on the ‘grilled seitan filet on a bed of wokked veggies with bio fries, vegan mayo and a side salad’ for her, and the ‘soy sauce marinated seitan skewers with relish, and the same bio fries, vegan mayo and side salad’ for me.
The atmosphere in the restaurant was not that cosy (It is a BIG place), but the delicious food and friendly staff more than made up for that. This place is certainly worth revisiting, since there are so many vegan options on the menu.

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The weather forecast and threatening clouds helped us decide to leave for the hotel, to beat the incoming rain showers, but still we caught about 10 minutes of rain. Nothing a hot shower and a change of clothes wouldn’t cure though.
Back at the hotel bar we once again indulged in cocktails, while remeniscing the eventful day.

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On the last day of our trip we took our time with breakfast, and packed our stuff back in the saddle bags. We left for home around noon, made a few stops on the way, spotted some kite surfers and large ships, and arrived home with the plan to start this blog.

 

Kristof.

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