Paris hates vegans. During my long weekend away with my girlfriend, I navigated my way through each arrondissement with a surprisingly adequate level of GCSE French and a smile on my face, but, to no avail. Vegan establishments were few and far between, and non-vegan places with vegan options even fewer. It’s a good job I don’t mind munching on a baguette or two. Here’s how I survived.
We arrived at Wednesday, midday, after beaucoup des un-explained Eurostar delays, to meet my girlfriend’s Hungarian friend with whom we were staying. She’d snagged us RER tickets (double-decker trains that were actually really impressive) but admitted that because of the strikes, only 2 of the 16 usual metro lines were working normally, and it would probably be cheaper for us to take buses and trams everywhere anywhere because let’s face it, no one in Paris pays for anything other than trains (including the government).
My girlfriend is a virgin to the City of Love, so of course we spent the whole day arguing at the Eiffel Tower (7A = 7th Arondissement) over who was better at following Google Maps. Spoiler alert — neither of us are. We considered going up the glorified pylon but instead chose to be able to afford to eat for the week. I snagged a coffee to celebrate saving money and was pleasantly surprised by both the price and the plant milk options, and thoroughly enjoyed an almond milk latte. Never underestimate a touristy area.
By about 7pm we were exhausted and it took us 2 hours’ worth of trams because some French commuters have this bloody annoying habit of pulling open the completely packed tram doors to try and jump on, every time the tram tried to leave. We ate dinner and home and fell into a coma, ready to awaken bright and early for breakfast on Thursday morning.
Cue: 11pm, Thursday morning, my girlfriend and I emerging, bleary-eyed and panicking because we were supposed to meet another friend at 10:30. For the first time probably ever, someone was happy for the strikes, because I was overjoyed that the reduced service meant my friend was an hour late. Breakfast became brunch, and brunch became lunch, as nowhere in the vicinity seemed to serve both vegan food and brunch past 12pm. We ended up at the sweetest little vegan patisserie called Cloud Cakes (2A), with an Instagram-able cobalt exterior and comfy light wood interior, eating our bodyweight in incredible vegan food and cakes.
Trudging over to the 10th arrondissement we visited Chinemachine vintage — my favourite vintage store EVER that’s in the beautiful château d’eau neighbourhood. This district is incredible for vegan foods, with places like Jah Jah By Le Tricycle and Kapunka Vegan. Not satisfied until we had spent every last minute we could exploring, the English lit student in me took over and we visited the infamous Shakespeare and company in 5A. I purchased a Dostoevsky for a friend, and an overpriced lemonade to use the loo, but very much enjoyed the vibe of the English language bookstore — looking around was an enjoyable activity in itself — and free!
Somehow, by this time, again we were hungry, so we visited my personal favourite spot in Paris: VG Patisserie (11A). Picture every French pastry you could ever imagine — but make it vegan (and add 6 euros). A little on the pricey side, but definitely definitely worth a treat if you want to sample the best vegan croissant of your life. Nearby was the tourist favourite Rue Crémieux (12A) (to the dismay of the locals), Balamory-style pastel rainbow houses crafting a perfect backdrop for social media, even if there’s a risk of ending up on the resident meme account on Instagram: @ clubcremieux.
We finished off the evening at the overpriced speakeasy LAVOMATIC (10A) a tiny bar hidden by a laundromat, washing machines to boot. It was good for the ‘gram, but not much else, considering the steep prices, overcrowding and the fact the bar was so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone talk. Consequently, we ended up bar-hopping, eventually landing at a gay bar that I can’t remember the name of, as we were all quite drunk by this point. Nonetheless, it was nice to feel like I could kiss my girlfriend without the stares of heterosexual locals.
Friday was our last full day in Paris, but oh, the strikes struck again. We travelled all the way to central Paris to visit the Louvre (1A), but were stopped by security informing us that the Louvre was closed for the entire day because of strikes. Shit. Instead, we visited and enjoyed the history of the Starbucks in the attached shopping mall, Carrousel du Louvre, but beware non-dairy drinkers — Starbucks in Europe charges extra for drinks in general and ALL plant milks, even soy! We decided instead to go visit the nearby Musée d’Orsay and 59 Rivoli independent gallery, but found as we arrived that those two were also arbitrarily closed. Sigh. Instead, we visited the nearby Monoprix (avoid these and ‘Carrefour’ at all costs — ridiculously expenny) and grabbed picky bits, and enjoyed a picnic of sorts. This was whilst freezing our arses off, sat on a broken bench overlooking the Seine and being harrassed by crows.
We went back to rest, hoping we hadn’t contracted bird flu. and to prepare for the evening meal. We’d saved all our pennies up to this, the big posh place: Veget’halles in the 2nd Arrondissement. The food was exquisite, very fancy, incredible service and a good vibe. What put a bit of a damper on the evening was that I was wearing the “brand new” vintage €2 heels I’d purchased at Chinemachine, but they were far too small and I couldn’t walk in them at ALL. What’s more, Veget’halles’ dessert menu sucked so we ended up hobbling from street to street looking for good vegan dessert options whilst I was barefoot trying not to step on any broken glass.
Solace came in the form of ‘Breathe’ in the 9th Arrondissement — a trendy up-and-coming vegan bar-come-restaurant that I’d heard did the best vegan macarons in all of France. But of course, this was my luck so they’d completely sold out. Instead, I scarfed down a far-too-expensive vegan crème eclair on the metro home, thoroughly disappointed, both feet bleeding but appeased by my cake.
Saturday came heavy, like the French police during a peaceful protest — our last day in the city of plight. We visited my friend Lilly on the outskirts of Paris for incredible banana pancakes and chats with her sweet family. I thoroughly believe Lilly should open up a restaurant and provide some solace to a city that needs some more vegan lovin’.
We spent our final moments in Paris trying to find a vegan restaurant amongst a throng of police, eventually settling in the popular plant-based HANK burger joint. Whilst I was enjoying a Beyond Burger so good and meaty it was suspicious, I had a think about the things I’d seen whilst on vacation. I’d seen more police in Paris in the last few days than I’d seen my entire life — and the majority of people outside Paris don’t know what’s going on, because mainstream media isn’t reporting on it. I realised I want to make a difference, and report on these things that aren’t being reported on. So, on the long Eurostar journey home (delayed, again), I researched Masters degrees and figured out what I want to do with my life.
Investigative journalism, here I come. Thanks, Paris.