Eating in Paris once meant meat, cream and cheese. But not anymore. Just ask Portland resident Jennifer Willett, who visited Paris in September for a week as part of a vegan tour organized by VegNews magazine.

“It was the best vacation I’ve ever taken,” Willett said. “It was amazing. Everything we did was vegan.”

“Everything” included a vegan wine tour, a vegan chocolate tasting, a vegan bakery visit, a catered vegan picnic at the Eiffel Tower, a vegan cheese tasting, a vegan high tea at a swanky hotel and a series of vegan restaurant dinners.

“The last day we were there we had five meals,” said Willett, who was overwhelmed by the amount of vegan food. “Thankfully we walked everywhere.”

Her experience in Paris is not unique. Vegan food is on the rise around the globe, and Maine vegans who travel frequently report finding excellent plant-based food on multiple continents.

“You can be vegan anywhere, if you’re smart, do your research, are willing to adapt … and are comfortable not having everything to your Western standards,” said Portland resident Chris McClay, when I reached her in Thailand.

McClay has spent the last two winters traveling and this season has visited multiple countries in Europe and Southeast Asia. One stop was Berlin, where McClay said vegan restaurant guide Happy Cow showed “70 vegan restaurants and 100 vegetarian restaurants within a five-mile radius” of her Berlin lodgings.

Happy Cow ranks Berlin no. 2 (with London in the top spot) on its list of the world’s Top 10 Vegan-Friendly Cities.

McClay said on her current travels, “Laos was so easy to be vegan in,” adding that she found “the most delicious vegan food we’d ever had” in Luang Prabang, Laos. In Thailand, she points to the islands of Koh Phangan and Phuket as the most vegan-friendly.

When I reached Falmouth resident Sue Young, the author of “Food Fix: Ancient Nourishment for Modern Hungers,” she was in the Caribbean on a vegan cruise organized by Holistic Holiday at Sea. Young cited the vegan food and the camaraderie of being with “2,000 like-minded folks.” She also offered a warning.

“I need to be careful not to get sucked into vegan junk food,” Young said. “I’ve had trips where I have overeaten and not felt great.”

Now, Young makes a point to pass up dessert when she’s traveling and instead seeks out dishes made from freshly prepared fruits and vegetables.

Young’s travels this winter have taken her to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore, and at each stop she found plenty of vegan food made with fresh produce. She had far less luck this winter in Florida, where she was visiting The Villages, a sprawling retirement community. “Menus were pretty meat-centric,” Young said.

I caught up with Portland resident and frequent traveler Donna Jean Hickey when she was in Vietnam. Hickey, a yoga teacher and empowerment coach, posts on Instagram and Facebook about traveling and vegan food under the name The Jedi Coach.

“A highlight so far is being in Dalat, Vietnam,” she said, mentioning the abundance of vegan banh mi, pho, spring rolls and steamed buns.

Hickey said on her recent travels, “Bali was incredible for vegans” with “restaurants marketed as vegan everywhere.” The Indonesian island came with a major downside, though: “The beaches and water are so polluted with garbage and plastic.”

More enjoyable, Hickey said, was her recent visit to Cambodia. She was impressed with the abundance of vegetarian restaurants in Siem Reap, and while in Phnom Phen, Hickey sought out the restaurant Sabay Vegilicious “because they used to serve dog meat and now are totally vegan.”

Topsham resident Diane Hollister travels often, and at this time of year she is on the road at least once a week.

“I was in Jacksonville, Florida, a few weeks ago and ate at Foo Dog Curry Traders,” Hollister said. “It was amazing. In Chicago two weeks ago, I got some great bowl options, and last week I had some incredible veggie sushi at Kume in Center Valley, Pennsylvania.”

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is one of Vienna resident Sarah Carnahan’s favorite places to visit.

“Each time I go, I find it easier to find vegetable mofongo available as an entree,” Carnahan said of the popular Puerto Rican dish traditionally made with mashed plantains, fried pork and chicken broth. “I even found an amazing vegan food truck in Arecibo, and my omnivore family members loved it as well.”

Carnahan, who travels regularly, said she doesn’t consider Quebec City to be particularly vegan-friendly, but during a recent visit she discovered “amazing vegan poutine at a couple of places” in the old city.

Willett, who went on the vegan tour of Paris, has also visited Iceland, Ireland, and Portland, Oregon, in the past year and found vegan eats everywhere. That’s not remarkable in Portland, Oregon (no. 4 on Happy Cow’s list), but Willett was surprised to find a vegan burger (or borgari) on the menu in a remote, small town in Iceland. In general, rural areas, whether domestic or international, present the biggest challenge to vegan travelers.

Like the destination, the journey has brightened in recent years, too. Vegans report encountering more plant-based fare on airlines. On a recent Delta flight from New York City to San Francisco, Deborah Gordon of Cape Porpoise was pleased to see the crew offer vegan harissa roasted veggie wraps among the sandwich options. It was “delicious,” she said.

When flying out of Boston, Willett likes to fly from Terminal C at Boston’s Logan International Airport, which has “a kiosk that serves organic and vegan treats such as hummus, dumplings and pad Thai.”

Young recommends calling airlines in advance to arrange a vegan meal. Other vegan travelers continue to pack fresh fruit, vegan sandwiches or energy bars in their carry-on luggage.

“I’ve been vegan for 10 years now,” Carnahan said. “And the availability of vegan food in both restaurants and stores has absolutely exploded. I’ve found that pretty much any urban area will have at least a couple of restaurants that are intentionally vegan, and I’ve been able to find vegan food in grocery stores just about everywhere.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

Correction: This story was updated at 11:45 a.m. Monday, April 1, 2019, to correct the spelling of Jennifer Willett’s name.


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