Vegans Barging in France 1

Vegans Barging in France 1

One of the best bits about traveling in France is enjoying French foods. Words like chef, gastronomy, cuisine, Michelin stars and café spring to mind. They take food seriously in France. Very seriously. Lunchtime, anywhere from 12.00pm to 14.30pm, is sacred. Lock-keepers on the waterways go off for déjeuner (lunch). In smaller towns – the shops close. We like that. My other half and I are often asked what we eat. I thought I would share what vegans eat while barging in France. We eat similar food back home.

Soy yogurt and berry confit parfait

Soy yogurt and berry confit parfait

French food varies considerably from region to region. In the south it’s all olives, garlic and tomatoes whereas near the German border they love sauerkraut and sausages. Where we had been traveling, in Burgundy, they’re famous for Boeuf Bourguignon, Bresse Chickens and good quality wines – amongst other things. Don’t underestimate the influence North Africa and the Middle East has had on French food. Couscous is a favourite meal. In Paris we hunt down one of the many Lebanese restaurants. They serve the most delicious made-on-the-spot falafel and salad plates.

Vegan snacks

Vegan snacks

As a vegan couple I won’t lie, it is trickier to eat out. But it’s tricky no matter where we go. However, each year it gets easier. People don’t realise how fast the plant-based food movement is growing in France. In the world actually. We check out Happycow.net before we get to a place. If we can’t find anywhere to eat, then we improvise, taking inspiration from what we find in the French supermarkets and see on the menus at cafes and brasseries. You don’t have to be in France to enjoy French food. Plenty dishes, particularly what is known as peasant cuisine such as Ratatouille, are already vegan. Swap out eggs for corn starch and dairy cream for soy cream to make a crème brûlée. Skip the beef and use mushrooms to make a Mushroom Bourguignon. Maybe some of the ideas that follow might add a Gallic touch to your vegan home cooking?

Marinated tofu steak with veggie risotto

Marinated tofu steak with veggie risotto

I was prompted to write this section as one of the books I took with me to read on the boat was – The Happy Vegan – by Russel Simmons. I thought he did a great job explaining why he went vegan. It made perfect sense. He backed up all his arguments with supporting information. One thing he speaks about – is how he finds and makes food when he goes away. I thought this information might help someone who follows a plant-based diet on the French Waterways or even visiting France – to plan and make meals. Or maybe help someone who wants to increase the pant-based quotient in their diet?

One of the things Russel says, and it’s so true, is that vegans eat the same as everyone else. They just make their food differently. Burgers, cheeses, omelettes, meringues and yoghurt for example, are not off the menu. It just requires using different ingredients, techniques and flavourings to make them. The easiest way to find recipes for your favourite food in a vegan version is to go on-line and search for food you would like to make – with the word vegan next to it. Try vegan meringues or vegan omelettes. You will not believe how many recipes come up.

The Galley

The Galley

Most boats have a gas hob and oven. Ours has a ceramic electric hob – but no oven. So, baking and grilling are out of the question. Since we like to eat as much fresh and raw food as possible, it’s not been a problem. We have a small kettle BBQ that we sometimes fire up and make food like kebabs, stuffed foods or fire roasted veggies. We have a small fridge/freezer which means we must shop fairly regularly. A stick blender is an absolute must. If you don’t have one available, then pack one. They aren’t particularly heavy and are extremely useful. The more powerful the better. You can make delicious smoothies, soups, juices, pâtes, nut cheeses, nut milks, salad dressings, pistous and sauces with a stick blender. I also cannot live without a coffee grinder. They are small, and not only do they make fresh coffee, I use ours to make flours from grains and nuts and also to mill flax seeds.

The story contnues – here.

Barging in Burgundy Part 25 – Final

Barging in Burgundy Part 25 – Final

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Fifty-Two – 18th August 2017
Lyon to London
We thought we had seen most of Lyon and weren’t trying to do too much. It seemed a good idea to go back to the marina and make sure we hadn’t missed out. Lyon have really missed a trick not making more of their marina. It’s modern and clean but unfortunately can only accomodate 20 boats. A few of those spaces are occulpied by local hire boats. Then we thought we would walk to to the confluence of the Rhone and the Saone. It’s actually an amazing walk with boards giving information. Along the way are quirky buildings, all manor of boats including boat offices. At the meeting point of the two rivers the view of Lyon goes on forever. Lyon and Marseille rival each other for the second largest city in France at somewhere between 2 and 3 million inhabitants.

Breakfast at our Airbnb in Lyon

Breakfast at our Airbnb in Lyon

The other vegan spot we hoped to visit – Against the Grain – was closed. So back to YAAFA it was. Not that we were unhappy. I love the fun, modern, repurposed furnishings and interior. Each time we visited there was at least one person who spoke perfect English. And they always checked if we were happy.

The big trek was about to commence. We collected our bags and made our way to Lyon Part Dieu. I was coerced into buying a cheap suitcase by someone who shall remain nameless. Two paces in and the one wheel was flattened, bent backwards and dragging underneath. This nameless person offered to schlep my cheap suitcase and I’m mean, I let him.

Next was the Rhone Express bus to Lyon Aeroport. It’s a fair distance from Lyon city centre. And busy being upgraded. The tram dropped us quite a distance from where we needed to be. By the time we arrived at the right place I was shattered, hot and not very happy. Then our BA flight was delayed due to the weather. Great opportunity to finish the book I picked up en route about Madame Pompadour. Found that book most interesting. Much insight into the French Revolution.

Meeting place of the two rivers

Meeting place of the two rivers

We finally boarded our flight. The minute I entered the shute I was struck by how loud the people were. We arrived at the London apartment and to be honest crashed. Everything needed to be switched back on and started again. That would all wait for the next day.

Day Fifty-Three – 19th August 2017
London
It was difficult adjusting to the hustle and bustle of a big city like London. It seemed so noisy. So in your face. Meandering at a snails pace through villages is hardly stressful. I was startled by the sirens and people shouting on their mobile phones or how loud they were talking while sitting right next to each other. Certain nationalities are renownded for being loud. What I can say is the French, certainly where we were, are discreet and polite. At no point whether on the street or on public transport or even interacting with them, did I ever think someone was loud or brash.

My husband and I had a long and difficult conversation about our beloved boat Shangri La. We love her. We love being on her. But there are some issues owning a boat so far from where we live. An obvious one is our proximity to her. We live in South Africa and can’t just pop across. We take 6 to 12 weeks out of our year to enjoy time on her, but truthfully, that isn’t enough to justify the investment. As a South African, I’m limited by visa restrictions in terms of how many days I can spend in France. Shangri La – plain and simply isn’t getting enough attention.

Our best place to eat YAAFA

Our best place to eat YAAFA

My other half unfortunately broke his back two decades back and although he’s in good health – he has to be very careful. Certain moves can set him into spasm causing extreme pain. The maintenance and cleaning of Shangri La was not doing him any good at all. In fact he was constantly hurting his back twisting and turning trying to mop and brush the boat. Or contort his body getting to the engine.

He had also retired in the last few months and we were trying to get a new business off the ground back in South Africa. My other half has family committments in the UK as well. All this time away from home wasn’t helping us one bit. We decided to squeeze the most out of two last summers on the boat, but to put her on the market in the meantime. It was a horrible decision to make. I felt pangs of deep sadness, but also relief. Who knows, if our business did really well, we could go back to hiring boats again? Could I enjoy a hire boat like I enjoy our special boat? Or go somewhere different for a change. Like India or China maybe?
Time will tell.

Barging in Burgundy Part 24

Barging in Burgundy Part 24

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Fifty – 16th August 2017
Lyon
Turns out the canny French took advantage of the public holiday and took an extra, extra long weekend. Most restaurants and small shops were closed. They place a notice in the window informing people they’re away on holiday. Not all of them do it though. We specifically hunted down a vegan supermarket and a few eateries, only to find them all closed. Our Airbnb host gave us suggestions for sight-seeing. But not before he plied us with a French breakfast. Croissants, coffee, French bread and confit. How they keep slim on a diet like that baffles me. There’s the old city. Which is actually the very, very old city. Ruins going back to Roman occupation. And numerous beautiful places of worship including the basillica, which I have to say is more beautiful than any I have ever seen.

I love Lyon. It’s much brighter, cleaner and friendlier than Paris. It’s also the gastronomic capital of France. Last time we visited Lyon, I clocked just over 30 000 steps. This day I got to 27 403. It’s not hard to do. So much to see. Back at our Airbnb accommodation we rested our legs, then settled at a spot next to the Rhone for a drink. I’ve said this before, going to say it again. The French know how to behave. They are free to drink in public places. Along the banks of the river, hundreds of folk settled on the steps or on the grass with wine, beer or whatever their drink of choice. Not one incident. No loudness. No bad behaviour. Nothing untoward. How do they get it right?

Lyon

Lyon

We went to an eatery called YAAFA – You Are A Falafel Addict. They make the most amazing salads or wraps. After that amount of walking – fair to say – we had a good nights sleep.

Day Fifty-One – 17th August 2017
Lyon
Our Airbnb host served us breakfast on his balcony overlooking the Rhone. We had a local delicacy called a Praluline – a brioche with pink praline. Very nice. But probably not the healthiest. I was glad to try it as I could not bring myself to buy one. We also had freshly squeezed orange juice – a bit of goodness to offset this decadence. One of the things I liked about our host is he gave us so much local info and stories. Which foods are from the region. I loved the story of how the Festival of Light which originated on 8th December has developed over the years. It’s now a global festival encompassing light. Laser, candles, fireworks, you name it.

Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre

We managed to miss the food market previous days, so this was our chance. It was smaller than usual as many of the vendors were away on holiday. Note to self – avoid France during the holiday season. Shoulder seasons are best. And cooler. I wanted a hat as mine was left behind on the boat. Won’t lie, I love to window shop. Real shop sometimes too. *bashful face* It was a great excuse to drag my other half though the shops. Am so lucky he is patient with me.

We tried to go to Cafe Vert again but alas it was definitely closed for a while. So we had lunch at a veggie place our host reccommended called Solene. Wish we had gone there sooner. Glad we got to experience their food. After 8 hours on the our feet the day before and 4 hours this day, we thought a post lunch snooze or relax was not exactly an indulgence. It’s hot in the middle of France. Like 30’C plus, plus hot. An airconditioned room was most inviting.

Inside the Basilica

Inside the Basilica

Our last night we had a picnic (pique-nique) on the banks of the Rhone, like veryone else seems to do in Lyon. They have loads of ex-barges which have been turned into bars and restaurants on the side of the Rhone. And seating on the quay. It’s lovely. Have I said how much I like Lyon? It’s a special place. It lacks the busyiness of Paris and the industrial feel of Marseille. The Rhone is the route from the north to the south. North France to south France. But also northern Europe to the Mediterranean countries. I could sit and watch boats passing by forever. We had a last pot of wine at one of the barges next to the river. Lyon is the only place that calls a carafe or pichet of wine – a pot. Not that we can pronounce it. Have to point it out on the menu. Apparently there are 3568 restaurants in Lyon. And a population of 2.5 million. More Michelin star restaurants per head than anywhere else in France. I can well believe it.

See more – here.

Barging in Burgundy Part 23

Barging in Burgundy Part 23

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Roanne
I may moan about boating at times. Hands up. That’s me. But gearing up to leave our boat is always sad. And a bit traumatic. What weather will she endure? Are there vandals in the area? Did we do a good enough job with the covers? What if she has a mini leak and sinks? Will she be OK when we get back?

We’re so far away. It’s not like we can pop over and check on her. We leave her with a heavy heart. Sigh!

Luckily my other half had budgeted extra time in Roanne for us to get on top of things. We had used up most perishable food. Washed and cleaned. There were a last few things to do and see before we left. Which we did on this day.

Shangri La covered up

Shangri La covered up

Our last evening was spent minus the usual coverings on the back deck, listening to families, and various groups, not necesarily speaking French, playing petanq. This game crosses cultural and generational divides. People were queuing up to play. Shouting out for good luck and bashing their balls together before throwing. I can watch this forever.

Meanwhile on the boat, we were so sad. Having a boat is about entering a relationship. With an entity. You derive great pleasure from it. But you also bear a huge responsibilty for it.

Each of us chatted to various other boaties during the course of the day. Roanne is an affordable place to stop. Many people were moored for some time. Some were doing work on their boats. Others not leaving for long periods. It’s a crazy life. We’re all water nomads. Trying to escape the mundane, but bearing up to the responsibilities of owning a boat.

People playing petanq

People playing petanq

Our last supper was a Black Forest Tofu with my favourite French grated carrot salad (love that stuff) and a green leaf salad with a French dressing. Lots of wine. Divine.

Day Forty-Nine – 15th August 2017
Roanne to Lyon
As luck would have it, or not have it, depending on which way you look at it, this was yet another public holiday. Luckily the marina was open, so finalising our winter stay in Roanne could be done. The boat was clean and wintered. Something my husband has preferred to let an engineer do, but did himself for the first time this year.

The final chore was draining the hot water cylinder and water supply. Which we left until last. It turned out to be an almighty mission. All the engineers who did this job drained the water with another hose and used a pump to extract the water. The hose my husband was trying to loosen would not come free. With his dodgy back he was wriggling this hose by every means, trying desperately to get it to shift. Eventually he had to cut it to get it loose.

Leaving Roanne

Leaving Roanne

Then the water would not drain. We had to use a small bucket with a rope, and lower it along with the hose into the bowels of the boat, draining the water bit by bit. Which took forever. By the time the water had drained, it was time to go. The pair of us were drenched in sweat. We nearly forgot to turn off the stop cocks to the toilet. A South African girl living on her boat in Roanne kindly agreed to give us a lift to the station. I ended up leaving my jacket and hat on the boat.

As we arrived there was a train pulling in. We hopped on board with our luggage. No spare seats, so we stood for the the 70 minute journey. I wasn’t upset about standing but I would have liked to see the secenery. Sigh! Lyon Part Dieu Sation was a heaving mass of humans. We grabbed a bite to eat and dragged our luggage to the river banks to check into our Airbnb accomodation. Fabulous spot. High speed wifi, views, airconditioning and a super helpful host. We freshened up and took a mini siesta. Then went walkabout in the drizzle. We found a Lebanese restaurant and had an amazzing meal. Back at our accomodation our host, us, and a Polish couch-surfer shared a bottle of rose wine.

See more – here.

Barging in Burgundy Part 22

Barging in Burgundy Part 22

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Forty-Three – 9th August 2017
Roanne
The South African bloke came across to look at our boat and talk about what could and couldn’t be done. Since I’m prone to interfering, I decided to leave the men to their business, and set off to find a laundromat. I went the opposite direction, the left bank, across the River Loire. It’s just as lovely. There’s so much to see in Roanne. I found a food market but not the laundromat. When we return to Roanne the following year, my feeling is we would need at least a week to explore.

When I came back, Peter and my better half had been delving into the engine and made a few conclusions. No major dramas, but a few spares and small jobs to be done. The wi-fi in Roanne actually works!! Really well. If you pause for a minute or two, it logs you out. And you have to log in again. But what a pleasure to be able to do business on our laptops on the boat.

Roanne

Roanne

My husband had contacted the father of the French family we met on the tow path and arranged for him to come for a drink that evening. Sometimes in life you meet amazing people. He is for sure one of them. He brought a bottle of local wine and two local delicacies, one of which we had to decline as it was a meat product. We had the most amazing evening. So good to get a local perspective on a region. I hoped we would see more of him. One thing he did mention is, when we tied up at our last idyllic wild stop we were right opposite a notorious jail and a touch further along was location for travellers who had been known to cause problems. A few metres down on the same side was a rescue centre for animals. Not that we realised any of this. Nor was it a problem.

As he left, we saw a bunch of kids playing petanqe next to our boat. One thing I love about France is that youngsters uphold local customs. Could be why France is such a special place. The French resist change but their values and traditions survive.

Chateaux le Roche

Chateaux le Roche

Day Forty-Four – 10th August 2017
Roanne
I woke up and found “something” moving on my pillow. Managed to capture it in a towel and turned out to be a huge spider. The sort that like to squeeze themselves into the tighest knots in our ropes. Spiders like boats. We find intricate webs between the railings, under the chairs, on the radar arch. Apparently they like a warm bed and the odd bite of a human too. I had been sporting a few bright red marks on my face and body, and wondered what was biting me.

We met the South African girl who was going to keep an eye on the boat and charge the batteries, replace the dehumidifying salts, etc. Then our new French friend collected us in his car for a day out. What an absolute pleasure it was to have someone who loves his town, take us to the best spots. Were it not for him, we would never have got to see so much. He showed us where the local markets were and took us to Grand Frais, an incredible fresh produce shop. There was nothing edible a person couldn’t find there. After that, he took us along pretty little country roads to the barrage and a view point for La Loire. Next he took us to a castle – Chateaux de la Roche. We then went to a gorgeous historic village – St Jean St Maurice sur Loire and wandered around in awe. Our new friend and us had a late lunch at the local quirky eaterie. Good food and wine. Lastly we went wine tasting in the Roannaise region. We had absolutely no plans to spend any money as we were winding down on provisions, but all good plans go awry. We ended up buying 18 bottles in total from two of the wine farms. Seven hours later our new friend dropped us back at the boat.

Pretty French Village

Pretty French Village

Turns out Thursdays are pub nights for the boaters in Roanne. Except all the nearby pubs were closed as their owners were away enjoying summer holidays. A lot of the shops had notices in the windows announcing closure for les vacances. An Australian couple, who had only just arrived, kindly agreed to host a bunch of us on board their boat. We had a good old chin wag about all sorts of things. Then had a very early night at our boat.

See more – here.

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