Things that happen when you wear a vegan T-shirt

What has this sculpture got to do with the subject of this blog post? Read on and you’ll see! It also made me laugh.

I took this photo at the front of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice. I think Peggy had a sense of humour too. I didn’t take note of the sculptor… Sorry.

Yesterday I stepped aboard the vaporetto to Burano, an island in Venice, and a woman saw me, jumped up out of her seat and started shouting, “vegan, vegan, vegan!!” I got such a fright I nearly jumped out of my skin (interesting idea.) She was from Israel, travelling with her husband, on a totally mad day trip to Venice from Milan. Their experience of vegan food in Venezia had been less than underwhelming, so when she saw me she thought she had seen the vegan messiah. And said so, loudly, to the whole boat. They looked pretty disgusted overall, in an Italian kind of way. The tourists looked terrified.

I am travelling with my ex-husband who happens to be one of my best friends (don’t ask) and we joined up with our two new friends for the day.

So while this couple had forgotten to use Happy Cow or Google to find vegan food, we had been having fantastic vegan meals. They told us they had just had a limp salad and a drink at a hotel in Venice for €85. They weren’t impressed. (Tip for restaurant owners: do not offer vegans a salad unless you want to incur their wrath.) We had just come from an excellent lunch on Lido (another Venetian island) at Buddha Soul Restaurant where I ate a tofu and potato curry – beyond delicious – and the ex had a veg curry – also highly rated – discovered thanks to Happy Cow. I like this app and use it a lot, but it isn’t always up to date. I recently looked all over for a restaurant – when cycling in Kalk Bay in Cape Town, South Africa – which no longer exists.

Back to Burano and, now a foursome, we wandered happily around the gorgeous island taking selfies and drinking bellinis and coffee, which is pretty much what everyone does in Venice. The other thing everyone probably does, and we did, is get on the right vaporetto going in the wrong direction! Our Israeli friends were rushing to catch the last train and literally made it to the station with 2 minutes to spare, after much panicky questioning of bewildered Venetians. And that was a pity, because I would have loved them to join us for dinner at La Tecia Vegana, which serves undoubtedly the world’s greatest tiramisu (in the city of its birth.) created by its Irish owner! I have never actually orgasmed from a dessert… But I came (haha) close to it.

Ah… That’s why I posted that pic.

And here is my new friend and the t-shirt that brings me these wonderful experiences.

A breakfast worth travelling for

I am at Saff’s Café in Castlemaine in Victoria (Australia.) I’ve stopped off for a late breakfast on my way from Melbourne to Uluru and Alice Springs.

Castlemaine is a small city… Very popular with me due to its public loo! I looked up veg-options on my Happy Cow app and two places sounded good. The first was the Governor’s Café which sounded amazing but proved either invisible or non-existent.

So I settled on Saff’s Café. I was initially disappointed because the vegan burger on their menu was no longer. A little irritated I settled for the vegan breakfast. Wow! Soon got over my irritation. Huge crispy potato rosti, half an avo filled with dukkah (which included sesame and sunflower seeds,) a black mushroom, tomato, house beans and wilted spinach. Really creative and yummy.

I eavesdropped a group of millennials at the next table joking self-deprecatingly about why they had moved to Castlemaine, a town well know for… nothing, as far as I can tell.

Great breakfast/brunch tho’.

Newkind 2.0 and where are all the female activists?

When I decided to return to Australia and tour Tasmania I started looking for festivals to attend. I stumbled onto Newkind 2.0 and was immediately intrigued. Here was a festival which was completely vegan in terms of the food and was starring some young, male, vegan, celebrity activists. I use those adjectives purposely. I have been wondering, since these passionate and lovely men have become vegan and famous in the last few years, where all the female activists are.

Interestingly, this was discussed in a panel of activists which included three men and three powerful women whom I had never heard of before.

So what is this phenomenon all about? There are something like two to three female vegans to every one male, as I understand (but don’t quote me.) There are five rock stars of the vegan movement right now. In no particular order they are Paul Bashir, James Aspey, Joey Carbstrong, Earthling Ed, and Joshua Entis. They are all young, cute, dark haired, some of them are bearded, and, quite honestly, one could be forgiven for getting them mixed up.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. On the contrary, I am glad they are there and love what they are doing. I just wish we had an equal representation of female celebrity activists. There’s no doubt that many women are very busy in activism and there’s easily more women than men on the ground, if one just looks at who shows up at cubes and vigils. But we’re not famous. We are also not on the speaking circuit in the same way as these guys.

In the panel discussion yesterday at Newkind the subject was sort of addressed, but unsatisfactorily for me. The question of sexual abuse was raised, suggesting women are exposed to this and get threatened with rape, for example, by certain trolling, carnist men. Although I have no doubt this happens, I don’t believe it is the reason there aren’t as many female celebrity activists. I think it has more to do with the fact that we are still living in a paternal society. The words of men carry more weight than those of women. And that goes for women as well, meaning even women tend to still listen more earnestly to men than to women. It’s how we have been trained. It’s a difficult habit to change when you are surrounded by male authority.

These five men have charisma, are forceful yet vulnerable and manage to keep their egos in check most of the time – at least when they speak in public. They have the advantage of being cute, so the girls like them, and they have some rough and manly histories between them, so the boys listen to them too.

So why does it matter? It matters because vegans are all about social justice and social change. And we are perpetuating our old fashioned values through our vegan activism. James Aspey said he would be willing to stand aside and let (my bad word) women take some of his speaking engagements. Thank you James. Appreciated… Still not sure if this solves the problem or not, though. If you are going to stand aside for women there need to be some compelling women for you to stand aside for.

I know my readers will be thinking of the wonderful and amazing female activists like Melanie Joy, or Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, or the incredible Marlene Narrow from Vegan Nation radio. There are so many of us women but we are not the vegan activism rock stars, and probably only could be if we were 25 and drop dead gorgeous and loved seeing ourselves on YouTube. It is limiting and frustrating being an activist in what is still a man’s world and I am at odds with it.

Would love to hear your thoughts, fellow activists.

Here are some photos from Newkind 2.0.

Back in Cape Town and wheel-less

This past weekend Sven (my fellow velovegan) and I rode from Cape Town to Scarborough and back, ostensibly for a vegan braai (google it,) but also as an excuse for me to get back on my bike.

Emirates at Melbourne Airport, in their autocratic way, decided that I would have to pay them Aus$300 (ZAR3,000) for the 3kg I was overweight for my flight to South Africa. I weighed about the same on the flight out from London – but no one seemed to mind. That might be one of the many examples of the tyranny of having to obey the law in Australia (I’m not big on rules.) Although I had cash in my pocket I couldn’t bring myself to pay them… I felt fleeced; so I left my back wheel behind… you know, the one with the gears. It weighs 2.8kg. It was easier than trying to find 3kg worth of clothes I didn’t need! So what about the person who weighs 3kg more than I do, but doesn’t have to pay $300 more for his flight? It’s one of the mysteries of flying.

I did not enjoy cycling in Australia and so cut my trip short. The drivers appear to hate cyclists. Or, at best, pretend you don’t exist. Roads, apparently, are only for cars and huge great trucks. Until I went to Australia I just assumed South Africa was one of the worst countries to travel by bike. NOT SO! I now want to thank all the crazy South African drivers, including taxi drivers, for treating us with such friendliness.

I can’t say the same for the South African postal service. My wheel has been posted to me from Australia, and now sits in customs – probably in amongst a huge pile of mail and packages – and who knows when we will be reunited. So I bought a new wheel. I now have a bike with three wheels. Lucky me.

The ride back was superb. Check it out here. You may have to sign up, but then you can follow all my rides if you do.

We cycled over the amazing Chapman’s Peak Drive which is part of the famous Cape Town Cycle Tour route. It is right up there with the most beautiful rides and drives in the world. I have lost count of the amount of people who took photos of us as they passed; stopped their cars to talk to us; and some even told us about their vegan relatives and how they coped with having such a radical non-conformist in the family. It’s so great to do activism on the bike. The people you meet… the places you see… it’s such fun.

I also had the best vegan carrot cake I’ve ever had at Rodgers Fruiterers in Kommetjie. Don’t miss it.

If you want to cycle in South Africa and your well-meaning (but inexperienced) friends and family ask you, “but is it safe?” tell them to shut up and then get on yer bike.

Sounds from Canberra

Travi and me

 

 

Morning at Amaroo

 

My Kefalonian Idyll

Being vegan and a hedonistic Taurean my memories of a place are often defined by the food I have eaten there. This pic sums up the simple fare I have enjoyed in Greece and describes my last supper and breakfast in Argostoli.

Tomorrow I will cycle the 70-odd kilometers to the ferry port of Fiskardo and sail to Nydri on Lefkada. From there I will ride to Igoumenitsa and then take the bus to Thessaloniki. My destination is Asprovalta and the Tree of Life Festival.

Argostoli has been beautiful and surprising – it is not an obvious tourist destination. We are just ahead of the summer season so it is still quiet, thankfully.  Besides giant beans, my abiding memories will be of people sitting about in the shade of dried palm fronds and grape vines, talking and yawning, drinking coffee in the day and raki at night.

Each time I cycle past a particular restaurant on the edge of the sea the waiter shouts, “beep, beep, beep” and waves. That’s because the first time I passed him I honked my horn; so now I have to do that every time I ride by.

When I think of the busy-ness in most people’s lives, and compare it to island life, it is hard to make sense of why we punish ourselves so in our daily grind. I gave all that up eight years ago and I haven’t looked back. I don’t own much. I don’t need much: just a good bike, my panniers, simple vegan food, love and friendship.

Greece is a really good place to be if your needs are simple and you want to opt out.


It’s all Greek to me… 

I’ve always wanted to be able to say that in context. And now I can. It is a language where some of the letters are not even recognisable and others are vaguely reminiscent of high school maths or science classes. Slowly, they begin to look familiar. 

I have been in Greece for a week and a few things have struck me. First impressions are so important… you forget what stands out after a while in a new place when the once-new becomes commonplace. 

Firstly, the Greeks: They are a strange mixture of really friendly and somewhat offhand. There is the grandmother who helps her son at the campsite where I am staying and greets everyone with outstretched arms and a big smile — even if she saw you just five minutes before. Sometimes she blows a series of kisses, flapping her hands to and from her lips in frantic butterfly movements. 

The son, who is the manager and in his early thirties, plied us with raki the first night. It didn’t end well… A few days later, after fixing me with his intense Mediterranean-blue eyes, he asked me, “How you stay so “feeet?” I laughed in that way where you feel flattered but don’t want to let on, lest you look middle-aged and needy. He then proceeded to proposition me – on behalf of his unmarried friend (of course) – so perhaps I did look marginally interested. No. I didn’t and wasn’t. He was just being Greek. And male. Male Greek.

Olives and olive trees:  There are many. They arch above the tent and shield us from the intensity of the full moon. 

Sun and boats: There are many of them, too. You could be forgiven for thinking that the entire world population lives on boats. 

The strange custom of putting dirty loo paper in the bin provided instead of down the loo, thereby protecting the aging sewers. By 5pm there’s a certain warm, unpleasant aroma radiating from the ablutions. 

The distinct scarcity of traffic accidents on the island, even though mopeds and bicycles commonly appear the wrong way down a one-way street. You know it’s a one-way because of the direction the cars are parked, I think…

Old men fingering their worry beads. 

Oleanders. 

Then there’s the naturally vegan food: stuffed vine leaves; huge, juicy red tomatoes; olives and capers; boiled greens; cherries; fava and, lastly, accidentally vegan rusks (an unexpected treat.)

Ubiquitous rosy-faced British tourists: They tend to waddle from side to side like ducks. Not sure why.

It’s a lovely place. So calm and peaceful. And warm. Until the afternoon wind picks up and tosses the washing off the line and makes the tent flap, interrupting your siesta.

Here are some pics.

The Parthenon at night. Viewed here from a rooftop cinema. 

Train graffiti in Athens.

Raw vegan sushi.

Ferry to Kefalonia.

Arriving Poros. 

Argostoli.

Vegan dinner by the beach.

Vegan dinner at the campsite.

Cycling the road to Lixouri.

Morning coffee with rice milk from “Bio” shop.

Indoctrinating children on a farm

One night during our recent Western Cape cycle tour we slept at a stunningly beautiful farm guest house in the Overberg. I am not going to mention the name because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or show ingratitude to our lovely host. But watching the activities there on a sublime Saturday morning helpes me to understand why our carnist culture prevails.

We were lazing in bed at about 8 o’clock when we heard a noise outside. A group of moms and dads and their young kids had gathered by a gate to the animal enclosure. The moms were wearing shiny new designer wellies and their kids had matching versions and the girls wore pretty little sunhats. They  were preparing to enter the pen where there were geese, ducks and some sheep. The kids had little baskets of seed and were going to feed these birds. As they entered the enclosure the sheep, who were sheltering from the sun under the only tree, fled. Some of the children chased after them and threw seed at them. The parents said nothing at first. Eventually, one adult called out to her son and told him to stop.

I grabbed my Vegan is Love T-shirt and pulled it on and went outside. The next adventure for the curious humans was to visit the hen house and steal some eggs. Sven and I followed so we could watch what happened. About 12 kids and adults crowded inside the tiny hen house where some of the hens were still sitting on their eggs. The kids were encouraged to go and fetch 2 eggs each from the nests. The hens were panicked and began flying and flapping and squawking but two stubborn and protective hens stayed put, determined not to leave their eggs unguarded. 

Eventually each child had filled their basket with at least two eggs each, some of them snatched from underneath the hens. At the end of the raid they were all corralled for a proud group photo. “Say ‘eggs’ kids.”

After they left, one traumatised hen was still stubbornly sitting in her empty nest. Sven stroked her and comforted her. 

I often have conversations with people about veganism and many times they have said that they understand everything I believe in, but what is wrong with keeping hens and eating their eggs? Well just think about it for a minute. The eggs belong to the hens and taking their eggs is theft. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a grand crime compared to the horrors that are perpetrated daily on this planet. But just think about it from the hens’ perspective for just a moment… and you just might change your mind.

Ell 269 – a vegan eatery in Hermanus

We stumbled upon Norah Hudson’s vegan restaurant ELL 269 in Hermanus today. ELL stands for Eat Love Life and 269 refers to the 269 Life vegan activist movement. Norah offered me a homemade fruity rooibos iced tea and shared her incredible story.

Every vegan has been (and still is) on a journey from the traditional way we were taught to eat and live to becoming a compassionate eater who understands that animals should not have to suffer so that we can have pleasure – any kind of suffering and any kind of pleasure. For Norah it began when her daughter Kendra was 2 1/2 years old and her husband committed suicide. Suddenly she was a widow with a baby daughter.

Five years ago, Norah’s friends got a piglet for their guesthouse whom they named Ziggy the piggy. But they soon realised it wasn’t that easy to look after a piggy and Ziggy moved in with Norah and Kendra. Once they were sharing their home with this little piglet it forced them to realise that we are all in denial about the cruel realities of the meat industry. For Norah and Kendra they were getting to know – and starting to love – a little animal with the intelligence of a 5-year-old child who had become a member of their family.

Norah decided to start an ethical eatery helping people understand where meat actually comes from and opened ELL at Spookfontein. She was vegetarian at this stage and thought she could convince people to source their meat “ethically”. She tried to justify eating dairy from Camphill Farm and eggs because they came from a farmer whose hens ran free. But then she and Kendra watched a Youtube video by Martin Dingle Wall called Vegan is the New Black. He explains his journey in such a down to earth and unpatronising way and, when they were finished watching, Kendra, then 17 years old, said, “But mom, now we don’t have a choice.” She was even ready and willing to give up sushi, her favourite food. Norah says, “We could no longer eat bacon and eggs and go home and look Ziggy in the eyes. We then realised that lambs were also babies who were taken from their mothers. We were still eating fish but no meat and then we started to study what happens in the fishing industry.” From that point on there was no going back.

The restaurant was very successful but most people ate there for reasons other than the fact that the food was ethically sourced. Norah did a lot of the cooking but wouldn’t taste the food because it wasn’t vegetarian. Then she had a conflict of interest because she realised she was making money from the very thing she abhorred (animal farming and exploitation.) She also experienced some very stern criticism from staunch vegan activists. It was time to move on. So she sold ELL and waited for an opportunity to open a fully vegan eatery.

Eventually, a vacant shop presented itself and she was ready to open the first fully vegan restaurant in Hermanus. Norah brings to ELL 269 many years of experience as a chef and restauranteur, as well as the compassion of an authentic vegan activist. I just know this restaurant is going to be hugely successful and, more importantly, is going to change many human and animal lives for the better. The food is fantastic (try their signature burger) and all the servers are either vegan or vegetarian.

Strangely, ELL’s opening was the same night as Melanie Joy’s talk in Cape Town – she is one of Norah’s main inspirations – a wonderful coincidence. Be sure to go and support this passionate woman and her worthy cause next time you are in Hermanus.

 

 

 

A cycle ride to Hout Bay and some Soul Food

The wind was showing as an unusual westerly on YR, my weather app. The mist that had rolled in overnight appeared to be lifting and I knew that today was my opportunity to cycle over to Hout Bay and try out the new organic vegan restaurant Soul Foods.

You’ll find them in Shoreline Centre which is opposite Pakalolo in Hout Bay, just before the road winds up Chapman’s Peak.

This was the ginger, lemongrass, basil, sweet potato soup. So far, so delicious. That was the first time I’ve ever had a soup where ginger was the main flavour and texture; having just recovered from a shitty flu I was happy to be eating this. The flavours melded together well and I liked the german sourdough drizzled with a drop of olive oil.

Main course: Oh my goodness – taste sensation! That’s raw lasagne made with a fresh cherry and sun dried tomato paste with a basil pesto, sandwiched between courgette slices and topped with macadamia nut parmesan-style vegan cheese; a thai veggie stir-fry with bulghur wheat and topped with lentil sprouts; a red cabbage slaw with slivered almonds and sesame seeds on top.

The menu changes according to availability of locally grown organic veggies. I loved the combination of raw and cooked, the exotic tastes and the very chilled music playing. 

My meal was a fitting tribute to Thanksgiving Day. I am thankful that two caring vegan women are willing to devote this part of their lives to feeding people healthy, organic and cruelty-free food. I hope the local Hout Bay crowd and the vegan community support them big time.

Vegan picnic in Cape Town & DJ’s Cheese Recipe

Sunday took us (the Velovegans) on a cycle ride from our temporary home in Milnerton to Arderne Gardens in Claremont to meet up with our vegan family for a picnic. I say vegan “family” because there’s something so warm and comfortable about hanging out with our vegan clan – like how family gatherings should feel.

Our picnics are a pot luck and the variety of great tasting food always amazes me. Looking at the photos I just realised I didn’t try all the dishes. Everyone is welcome at these events as long as you bring vegan food to share. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and exchange recipes. 


I made cashew cheese from a recipe given to me by my Dutch friend DJ whom I met on the vegan cruise up the Rhône this year. Lots of people asked me for the recipe and I know he won’t mind if I share it here:

  • 2 cups raw cashew nuts
  • 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 Tbsp coconut butter
  • 4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt

Soak the cashews for at least 12 hours. Drain. Blend all ingredients together till smooth. Refrigerate for a couple of hours if you want a stiffer texture. That’s it! 

You can play around with adding different flavours like spices or herbs or garlic. If you do, I want to taste the results!

My Vegan River Cruise

Last week, as a finale to my 1537km cycle trip across France, I boarded the Scenic Sapphire for an all-vegan river cruise from Avignon in the south to Chalon-sur-Saône, via Lyon, sailing up the Rhône and Saône rivers. You could describe it as an eating fest with a bit of sightseeing thrown in. It was the last voyage of the cruising season (which began in April) and, before we boarded, the entire boat was “veganized” in preparation for 160 guests.

How do you veganize a boat? Get rid of any animal products in the kitchen, dining rooms, lounge, and other public spaces; remove any non-vegan cosmetics in the staterooms and replace them with vegan-friendly products; replace the alcohol with vegan alcohol and, last but not least, put Rapunzel chocolate in each cabin for every guest to drool over. When was the last time you had a bar of dairy-free milk chocolate praline? I can’t even begin to describe the scrumptiousness of this german product.

I am not sure how many of the 160 guests were actually vegan… at least half of them, I think, would call themselves “plant-based.” I would love to know the statistics because a lot of people I spoke to were, in fact, vegetarian but were either very interested (in veganism,) or their cruising partners were vegan.

A few small things that I especially appreciated: the hot drinks dispenser –available 24 hours – was filled up with almond milk and vegan hot chocolate powder; the breakfast buffet where I could eat everything, including a choice of almond milk, soy milk or oat milk; being part of “normal” instead of “weird;” and making wonderful new friends.

The other strange thing about this trip was that neither the staff nor the chef were vegan. I think this was a good thing in some ways because it opened up a whole new world of veganism to 50 people. The fantastic food was different to what I am used to in veggie restaurants. I would call it “veganized gourmet.” Most of the meals were out-of-this-world-delicious and a few were quite unusual. I highly recommend this experience and will go again if I get an opportunity.

A word of advice: if you do go, be prepared to feel like you are having too many meals in a day and make a plan to do lots of exercise in between so you can be hungry enough to enjoy the awesome food.

Our cruise was organised by the inimitable Dirk Bocklage, our passionate and comedic vegan German host. For more info on upcoming river cruises click here. If you think you might want to go on the first fully vegan ocean cruise from London to the Norwegian fjords click here.

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Warm Showers and French Hospitality

 

wp-image-1406457112jpg.jpg

Who knew that the French are so kind and hospitable? All I have ever heard about the inhabitants of France is that they are unfriendly and even grumpy. Well, I am happy to say that that has not been my experience. I have just finished a cycle tour from Le Havre to Avignon, going via Fontainebleau, Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saône, Lyon, Vienne, Valence and other small villages in between. With the exception of a few days on a friend’s boat, I stayed with local Warm Showers hosts every night. They knew ahead of time that I was vegan. None of them were vegan. Perhaps I was expecting the derision that often comes from omnivores when they encounter a vegan: The sarcasm, the joking, the teasing or even belittling that seems to be uncontainable by many omnivores. When I wrote to each potential Warm Showers host I always made it clear that I did not expect to be fed because I know this can be complicated for someone eating a traditional diet and I didn’t want to make it difficult for them. And I always carried food with me so that I could feed myself if necessary. It was never used.

So you may be wondering what Warm Showers actually is. It is a network of people around the world who have signed up either to host cycle tourists in their homes or are cycle tourists looking for accommodation in locals’ homes. It is completely free and is based on a sharing of ideas, cultures and language. This is not an easy concept for most non-cycling capitalists to understand. I have encountered friends who have even criticised me for using Warm Showers and have suggested I am just out there looking for free meals and a free bed. These are people who rent out spare rooms in their houses on airbnb and couldn’t imagine hosting a stranger for free. It’s a sad sign of the capitalist mindset that we can only value money as worthwhile, and not peoples’ stories and other gifts.

Some people cannot seem to understand that the person hosting a cyclist in their home is often gifted with an experience that money could not buy. They learn about you and your travels, your culture and home country. They ask lot of questions. You are tired when you arrive, and often just want to have a hot shower and go to bed, but your responsibility as a guest is to share your stories. In the case of France the hosts have been eager to practise their English with me and very interested to learn all about my journey. We have had some of the most fascinating conversations I have ever had with anyone, me speaking bad French and them either speaking English or French. Their generosity goes way beyond anything you might expect and for me has been unbelievable.

But I still am a product of my upbringing and have felt it was important to bring some kind of physical gift. So I travel with bars of (accidentally vegan) chocolate which I can share with my hosts after a meal. I also thought it might be fun to send them all a postcard with a sketch or photo of their houses. I have done this a few times so far. In fact, the giving back may only take place when the cyclist eventually stops traveling and invites other Warm Showers cyclists into their home to receive their hospitality.

So thank you, France, your beautiful country, your incredibly friendly and generous hosts, your wonderful food, and your drivers who didn’t kill me!

 

 

 

 

 

Découverte Shop and Organic Vegan Café

I cycled into Colchester from East Bergholt to try this tiny little organic vegan restaurant. I’ve been a bit disappointed with the food I’ve tasted in English vegan establishments but this place was an exception. Truly the best vegan meal I’ve had so far in England (except for the awesome food my friends cook.)

It is run by a family team of Joan the mum, her daughter Johannah who is the owner of the quaint gift shop upstairs, and Roderick who is Joan’s son. They are all vegan and eat and serve only organic food. They sure have their work cut out for them! We whiled away the afternoon chatting and eating and I made some new friends.

Decouverte is at 6 Sir Isaacs Walk in a 400-year-old Grade 2 listed building. It is tiny and that’s part of its appeal; I felt like I had dropped in at their home for lunch. My quinoa burger was the best burger I’ve had in ages and wasn’t heavy like so many vegan burgers are. They served Booja-Booja ice cream with the homemade crumble and I was a happy girl.

Upstairs is a gift shop selling all kinds of stuff: clothing, ornaments, jewellery, etc. I also bought some organic soy milk and a stem ginger cake. Piling on the pounds here… lucky it’s back on the bike again tomorrow.

I highly recommend this cool little find in Colchester. Here’s the Facebook link.

(Note: they are closed for a week and will re-open on Saturday 1st October 2016.)

Laughing out loud on the bike

I just rode my first 10km after injuring my knee. Every time I take to the road there is a reward waiting for me. Yesterday, it was the flight of a green woodpecker passing right in front of my eyes as I slowly and gingerly cycled down a country lane near Flatford Mill.

Other rewards are the feeling of the sun on my face, the smiles and sometimes comments from passers-by when they see my fancy dress, the scents from the flowers and trees, the breeze on my skin, the anticipation of what is around the next bend, the honesty farm stall where I buy my dinner, the gratitude I feel when I see so many others who can barely walk. Cycling, like many outdoor pursuits (not sports–what I do is not sport) brings you into the moment. No past or future. Just the experience of now. 

I look inside the cars next to me and feel elated that I am not imprisoned. No matter that their occupants probably feel sorry for me.  And then, I laugh out loud with joy.

Vegan girl not cycling…

 

Me with bike at Jane's

Just a little update to those of you expecting an adventure.  My over-enthusiastic 120km first day back on a fully-loaded bike after being a lazy, working, sedentary person without a bike has resulted in me injuring my knee.  So instead of vegan girl cycling to Europe it is vegan girl recovering and gingerly repairing said knee in East Anglia.  Hah!  Shit happens.  These things are sent to try us and to teach us (I suppose… not sure from whom or where they are sent but anyway) so stay tuned for more exciting stories about Colchester and surrounds (hint of irony.)

Gypsies… Tramps and Thieves? I think not.

Joe and Mary Gypsies (1)

Joe and Mary are gypsies.  I met them today, parked by the side of the road, while I was out cycling the back roads of Oxfordshire.  Turns out Joe was born in Chelmsford – the town of my birth too – in St. John’s Hospital.

I am curious about people living slightly outside of the delineated borders of society.  I spent an informative half hour with this lovely couple interrogating them about their lives.  They were very patient and forthcoming and gave me some fascinating insights into their culture and life experiences.  Although they own a house, they take to the road every summer and get back to their gypsy roots, parking on their favourite grass verges and freely enjoying nature.

But, sadly, they are abused by passers-by in their cars who roll down their car windows and cry, “pikies”or “stinky gypsies” and various other rude comments.  And the cowards only do it from the safety of their cars as they drive by.  Joe said that people generally don’t give them the time of day, appreciating that I stopped by to chat and get to know them.  I asked him if he thought people were afraid of them.  He thought they probably were.  He thinks people just assume that because they are travellers they are criminals.  He acknowledged that some of them are, but he also pointed out that some people who live normal lives in houses are criminals.  Just like you get all types of people in the world you get all types of gypsies.  Good and bad.  Social and antisocial.

So gypsies are classified based on them owning a transit van towing a caravan.  If they wanted to, they couldn’t just pull up into a normal caravan park; they would most likely be turned away.  Sad, really.

They are also defined by their language or dialect.  They don’t readily share this language with non-gypsies but I did learn one or two words: they call a horse a gigi, for example.  And they have their own names for non-gypsies too: we are called gorgers or country people.  It was fascinating.

Why do people abuse gypsies?  Fear, I guess.  I suppose it is no different from any other kind of racism or discrimination; that which we don’t understand we tend to fear.

All the more reason to get out there in the world and experience how the other half live.

 

Stratton Audley Barn, Oxfordshire

I discovered a delightful coffee shop / tearoom / gift shop while out riding with Concordia and Juma today.  It is called Stratton Audley Barn and they were able to serve me vegan hot chocolate made with almond milk.  It has inside and outside seating – the outside area looks out onto farmland.  Inside is a gift shop with all the gifty-type things you would expect in a country store.  Nice place to go for tea or coffee.  Now all they need is a vegan cake to complete the offering…

S Audley Barn Cropped

Cakes at Kind Food at Norwich Market

Paul Dacre at Kind Food

This post is very late… sorry Paul.  I encountered Paul Dacre and his Kind Food stall, at Norwich market, way back in May.  He very kindly gave me a chocolate brownie to try.  I went to Norwich for the Vegan Festival which was a bit of a disappointment.  While I was standing around at Paul’s scrumptious market stall, vegans kept coming up and asking for cake.  No doubt this was because they couldn’t get much cake at the Vegan Festival; lots of T-shirts and other paraphernalia but not enough cake.

Kind Food specialises in gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free cakes as well as other food. Paul’s mum is a vegetarian and he has never eaten meat or dairy in his life!  Lucky man.  He has been baking for over two years and has been at the market since September 2015.  Another point in his favour, apart from great cakes, is that his containers are all compostable and recyclable.

On the subject of containers, a young vegan couple pitched up with a little stainless steel cake tin and asked him to put their cake in there.  Awesome idea.  Really thoughtful of them.

Keep up the good work, Paul.  Hungry vegans need people like you.  Sorry for the rubbish photos.  I’ll do better next time… now I have a new phone.

Cranberry and Orange and Brownies