The following article was written in partnership with Hotel Acacias, our accommodation choice in Lloret de Mar during our attendance at TBEX Europe 2015. All opinions are our own, formed after several meals of filling vegan food.
Spain attracts people from across the world for lengthy summer holidays – chiefly for the sun, but also for the food. Olives, cheeses, and jamon are the largest attraction – but about people who are vegan? Can they cope in Spain?
Yes – with a little preparation and a couple of emails.
Eight Days in Lloret de Mar for TBEX
For the travel bloggers conference, TBEX, we decided that to get the most out of our time in Costa Brava we’d need more than the weekend of the conference, and that would involve a few extra days of accommodation.
We wanted to find somewhere in which we could obviously feel comfortable, yet also a have a place in which to do the last minute preparation needed for the conference. Having the facilities available to cater to our vegan diet was also a large contributor to our decision making too, so with that in mind we got talking with some friends who put us in contact with a hotel in Lloret. Apparently they’d be more than happy to discuss with us not only how to accommodate us as vegans, but to put in to practice what they learn for their future vegan clients.
Over the course of a few emails we came to the conclusion that in order to be able to cope in a country where fish, meat, and dairy are traditionally a large part of the diet; it was mutually beneficial for us to help them whilst they kept us fed in return.
After eight days of great vegan food, we can both declare it a fun success.
It’s our believe that by a little simple communication there’s no stopping any hotel from understanding how to better cater for the vegan lifestyle, and not just at a catering level.
From animal-testing free cosmetics, to the omission of animal-based products in both the bedding and room furniture; for every non-vegan item there’s generally a locally sourced and eco alternative just waiting to be found.
How To Help Your Hotel Understand Veganism
The first key to understanding anything is the discovery of information. For us to learn, first we must read, listen, and review.
For Hotel Acacias there was already a little understanding of the importance of replacements and the separation of certain foods due to their accommodating someone with gluten-free needs previously, so to expand further on what we could and couldn’t eat or use we sent along a little email of the most common ‘Do’s and Don’ts‘.
Here is a list of what we can and cannot eat as vegans:
We cannot eat:
- Butter or cream
- Cheese from cows or goats, or any other animal
- Milk from cows or goats, or any other animal
- Meat, poultry, lamb, or beef, or any other animal
- Fish, shellfish, shrimp, or lobster, anchovies
We can eat:
- All fruits
- All vegetables
- All herbs and spices
- Soy-based protein like tofu and tempeh
- Pasta (that’s not made from eggs)
- Olive oil
- Milk alternatives such as soya milk, almond milk, oat milk
I hope the above list is useful to you 🙂
As it transpired, it was really useful for them when they came to start planning out what food they needed to order in prior to our arrival, with tofu being one of the few items they’d never once ordered in before.
With a little simple communication we were able to aid their brainstorming and exploration of their own personal favourite recipes to find something special for us – but there’s more you can do here to help the process.
Takeaway – Before arrival, send a simplified printable list of what you can and cannot eat. The chef can print this and keep it at hand for every meal preparation.
Suggest Recipes, But Express A Desire For Traditional Favourites
Franca in particular has been keen from the moment we went vegan in 2014 to discover local culinary dishes that are ‘accidentally‘ vegan. By asking locals or by doing a little online research beforehand, Franca loves to find traditional local recipes that don’t contain any of the products we omit, purely because the recipe was created without them.
During our ongoing conversation with the hotel prior to our arrival we expressed an interest in trying any, or all local recipes that fit with our listed criteria of foods we can and cannot eat. We would have been happy to send along a couple of our favourite simple vegan recipes to use should they be hitting a brick wall at any point, however we were reassured that it wouldn’t be necessary.
Takeaway – Offer to email a handful of your favourite vegan recipes as an example of what delicious creations can be created, or to be used as a backup, but always press for traditional recipes if possible.
Meet With The Chef When You Arrive
Once checked in and after a little relaxation in our rooms we made our way to the dining room to discover what we’d be enjoying over the next week. The buffet we found was quite typical for Spain and included several meat cuts and plenty of fresh fish from the sea outside the front door, but between it all were a number of options for us both.
But that wasn’t everything.
In fact, especially for us the chef had prepared a vegan-friendly dish of his own creation for us to enjoy during lunch.
We were both blushing with appreciation.
Whilst in some high street restaurants we may be fortunate enough to have a meal made especially for us, we assumed that during the buffet offered at Hotel Acacias the easiest choice for the catering staff would be to make a couple of items on the hot plate vegan-friendly by default. Having someone bring out a large plate of food for the two of us was not what we’d expected.
By talking before hand and meeting with the chef when you arrive you can really break down veganism into really easy to digest facts and ideas that a chef can transform into spectacular dishes. In fact, we’ve spoken with and heard of so many chefs who actually enjoy the challenge to their culinary skills that veganism and other diets present to them.
It brings out the inner master. It provokes them to try flavours and ingredients they might not ever get to use with their typical weekly spread – and for chefs who aren’t fortunate enough to get to choose what they cook each week, the sudden break from routine can be quite refreshing.
Talking – as ever – builds many bridges between people and their differences. We may be vegan and they may be a carnivore; but through conversation and the sharing of knowledge there’s no reason that something exciting and delicious to eat can’t be created.
Takeaway – Meet with the chef when you arrive and see if you can’t further help them to create new recipes. They may enjoy the challenge.
Be Thankful For Every Bite
Every time we returned to the dining room either for lunch or for dinner a smiling face would greet us, followed swiftly by another great vegan creation by a chef who became more experimental by the day.
Every plate surpassing his last.
Together with our friends and fellow customers of Acacias, Nomad Is Beautiful and The Crowded Planet, we’d spend hours talking whilst devouring plate after refilled plate of great food that we were always happy to share with our companions – some of whom were happy to go "vegan for the day" if it meant sharing the food too.
All of us were happy with the food, but we were especially happy with the people serving it.
The family and staff who keep Hotel Acacias running are the entire reason that we spent most of our time relaxing in the hotel and not out walking along the beach in Lloret, or walking one of the several coastal paths that start nearby.
Everyone smiles, and not because they have to.
The family that owns Hotel Acacias has only been running it themselves since the Christmas holidays and you can tell that everything they do, they do it because they love to. It gives them kicks. It puts a smile on their face so large that you can’t help but reflect it back with your own. It makes them happy to see you happy, and there’s nothing they won’t do to ensure that smile remains on your face during your entire stay.
"Sure,", you’re thinking, "isn’t every hotel owner trying to do the same?"; and you’re not wrong.
Yes, of course every hotel wants to ensure that their customers have a great time and go on to recommend them further; but it’s not always the case.
It’s a cold hard fact, but sometimes you’re a number on a receipt. It’s understandable. Business is business – but it doesn’t always have to be that way, just as Monica and Enric and their team have gone to great lengths to demonstrate.
Their attention to our wants and needs made us feel more like friends and less like clients. Thanking them for every effort they collectively went to for us was the least we could do.
Takeaway – Be thankful for every effort made. Thank the chef personally. Thank the kitchen staff, the waiters. Everyone. It leaves a lasting impression of who vegans really are.
Communication Is Everything
From our first email to our final "Adios!", communication has been the cornerstone of what turned out to be a fantastic vegan experience, all thanks to a little forethought before hand to type a couple of quick emails.
Of course, nothing compares to the progress you can make whilst talking and sharing ideas with people in person, but the few minutes we found before our trip to discuss our arrival before hand had immediate effects when we arrived, and hopefully long-term effects for the next vegan to pass through the doors of our new favourite hotel in Lloret de Mar.
Before your next vegan vacation take two minutes to find the email address of the hotel manager and write them a short note about your stay. Explain everything as we’ve mentioned here and be the best example of a vegan you can be. The impression you make goes a long way to helping more hotels to be vegan-friendly in the future.
Fingers crossed at the next hotel you book, you’ll not just cope, you’ll be helping yourself to plate after plate of delicious vegan food without any communication needed at all.
Have you had a great vegan hotel experience?