Vegan Travel: Our trip to NL and Tips
I mentioned in my last post that we took a trip to Newfoundland. It had been 4 years since our last trip. My mom is there (my dad passed years ago), and Paul’s parents are both there. We also have most of our siblings in St. John’s. The girls have changed so much in four years, it was time!
Today I’m sharing some of the vegan highlights (and lowlights) from our trip, as well as a few family pics.
Long Flights and Eating Vegan
Flying from Vancouver to St. John’s
We took a red-eye flight from Vancouver to Halifax, NS on Saturday night (Canada Day)! The girls were very excited. It felt like forever waiting to drive to the airport, right kids?
And then waiting at the airport…
for mommy too…
Then, we had a short flight from Halifax to St. John’s. I always find the flight is one of the most challenging stretches for eating vegan. Especially on a flight of this distance and length. There is very little to pick up in the airport and well, nothing on the plane. We flew WestJet, but I don’t think it’s much different from Air Canada in terms of snacks.
I snapped a pic of this description from the plane menu. Check out the “Lite-Bite”.
😲 Um. Lite? Moving on.
As much as the red eye wasn’t the easiest for sleeping (the kids barely slept), it was the easiest for food management. We had eaten all day so didn’t need a meal for that long stretch. Just water and some snacks. We brought some oatmeal banana bites (recipe also in PPF) and fruit, and hubby and the kids wanted to tote some salt and vinegar chips, which is the last thing I want to eat at around 10 pm, but okay! We flew straight to Halifax, then changed plans for another shorter flight to St. John’s. We arrived around 9:30 local time, and the girls were getting hungry. We were heading to Paul’s parents so they were able to eat a snack before grabbing a nap.
Flying from St. John’s to Vancouver
The flight on the way home was quite different. We left St. John’s at 8:30 am, flying to Calgary. That was a long flight. There is no easy way to do this trip! However, our youngest carried enough excitement for all of us when she discovered this was our plane…
Once on the plane she looked out the window and said “Hello everyone outside! I’m in a Frozen plane and I’m a big fan!” She talked about it the entire flight. 💕
We knew we needed food for this leg of the flight, so we toted quite a bit. I made a large stack of almond butter sandwiches – some layered with sliced strawberries, some with sliced apples. That was meant to be our breakfast. I don’t like that type of food for breakfast, however, and our eldest also didn’t want too much. She had a green juice that we picked up at Freshii the night before (more on that later), and I had some fresh fruit and a couple of freckly bananas. I only like bananas freckly. Don’t give ’em to me with any streak of green!
The fam was happy for a couple of hours. Except our middle girl. She is 12 and going through some crazy growth. She’s hungry every hour I swear! She can eat more than Paul most meals, often having a third helping. So, she was asking for food within the hour. My sister was kind enough to bake us a stash of Troll Cookies (LTEV recipe, I must get it posted!) the day before we left. Thanks Deb!! Those cookies were a hot commodity. I was trying to hide them away so they weren’t all eaten the day before our flight. So, she had a couple of Troll Cookies and then asked for food about 5 minutes later. 😲 That’s when I pulled out one of the Freshii wraps (more on that below)!
Eating Vegan in Newfoundland
On this trip I did not cook once. Not once. I made sandwiches a couple of times for us all, and washed some fruit. Other than that – nothing.
See, I decided to stay in a hotel on this trip.
For a few reasons:
First, neither Paul’s parents or my mom had the space for us all to sleep comfortably in their homes. Second, I was quite certain that our youngest wanted to sleep with me. Every trip to date she has wanted to sleep with me, so we always have a bedroom for us. So, I figured we could stay in the hotel while Paul and the older girls stayed with his parents. I’d be hanging out with my mom more anyhow. So, it all seemed practical.
Finally: I was keen for some “me” time. I am a mom 24/7 and work from home so there is always push and pull and distraction and it’s busy. So busy. These family trips are wonderful, but they are not downtime. A couple of years ago I came to the awakening that I’m a highly sensitive person. Events and trips like this becoming very overwhelming. If I don’t have that precious quiet time / me time / downtime… it’s very challenging. Almost painful. Some of you might understand that.
It worked out fabulously. I enjoyed having my solitude in the evenings and mornings, and it felt more like a vacation than it would have otherwise.
But, with staying in a hotel, I didn’t cook! At all. That meant Paul and I ate dinner out every evening. For breakfast and dinner we just winged it. Sandwiches, fruit, chocolate, salads, chocolate, energy bars, chocolate. 😁
The girls had dinners with us a couple of evenings, but also ate with grandparents, and ordered in pizza. Our 16 year old also got into making some breakfasts for her grandparents. One day she made pancakes for Paul’s parents:
and another day this tofu scramble for my mom:
She loved making these breakfasts! She says I don’t let her in the kitchen enough.
I blame recipe testing. Or the fact that she’ll clean up in someone else’s kitchen, not so much at home. 😬
Vegan Dining in Newfoundland
Like vegan travel to most cities, all you need is to plan and do some searching. There are more options in St. John’s than you might imagine. For a smaller city, they are holding their own with vegan dining options. We were pleasantly surprised by one restaurant in particular. Here’s the rundown:
Paul and I dined here the first night. They know the word vegan (though they pronounce it “vay-gun” like most people in St. John’s) and offer Daiya cheese. So it’s easy to order a veggie pizza with Daiya or without if you prefer.
Sprout is known as the vegetarian spot in St. John’s. It’s been running for quite a few years, and we visit there every trip, usually several times a trip. This time, we visited once, with the girls and my mom.
This visit was a bit of a miss for us. Maybe the night we visited, menu selection, not sure, but things were a bit off. My mom order the Pad Thai, and that’s reliably a great dish. I ordered the teriyaki bowl, because I really wanted rice and veg after the night of pizza and not feeling so nourished overall. The tofu in the dish was very salty and dry, and the rice wasn’t plenty. I had ordered a side of rice for our youngest, so took a little from her dish. But that rice was really dry and overcooked. The girls ordered the vegan poutine and it was very strong in herbs and vinegar. Hubby didn’t love his burger. Also, for our youngest I tried to order her a vegan grilled cheese. Grilled cheese was on the menu, but they didn’t carry vegan cheese. For a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, I feel this isn’t acceptable. It’s available, it should be an option in a vegan restaurant. Or a house-made cashew cheese. Something. So, I ordered a grilled avocado sandwich instead. But, they didn’t have avocado. So, she had dry rice and home fries. A lot of ketchup. 😣 Other visits we have had fabulous meals there, so I think it was an off-night overall.
By far our best vegan meal. By far. Outstanding, actually! This is a finer dining restaurant, that has a special vegan menu – even published on their website.
Thank you. I love this.
Paul and I both ordered the pasta dishes from the menu, and we shared the bruschetta appetizer. They are fairly liberal with their use of olive oil (as the name might suggest)! When we are travelling like this, I really don’t care about the use of oil in dishes. As long as we can eat vegan I’m happy. If it’s a richer meal, I can always balance with a side salad or something. We didn’t have salad with this meal, and didn’t fuss or mind at all. It was delicious. Rich, yes. Interesting, the next morning Paul mentioned he really felt how ‘heavy’ the meal was compared to my cooking. Shows how much our bodies adjust, because years back a ‘heavy’ meal would have included meat and/or dairy – not olive oil!
I wish I had taken photos of our meals. The restaurant was dark, and also, I was having so much fun it didn’t occur to me! I did find these photos via HappyCow. I love that they use a cashew cheese in their dishes, the taste is so fresh and real.
They even had vegan desserts. That weren’t fruit! WHAT?! Yep, two types of vegan cheesecakes. I thanked them for their vegan menu… including dessert.
We dined with my sister and her husband. Great food, great company, lots of laughter! My sister announced that I was a vegan author and started listing off all my books and work with Dr. Barnard. I started to shrink under the table while holding out my wine glass, haha. Love you, sis!
I’ve written about Panago’s vegan options pretty extensively, so visit this post. Whenever we’re in a pinch, we look for a Panago! We ordered twice on our visit, once for the girls, another time for a pizza night with my mom.
This place saved our vegan butts. Towards the end of the trip we found Freshii, and it was just what we needed with grains, vegetables, noodles, and even fresh juices. Our eldest said “I needed these veggies”.
We all ordered a bowl, and then ordered several wraps for the plane the next day. We also ordered another green juice for kiddo, she wanted it in the morning before the flight. Hubby ordered the Khao San burrito for our flight home and loved it.
Freshii is not fully vegan or even vegetarian. However, they do keep a list of how to adapt non-vegan items on the menu, which is very helpful. You can remove cheese and add in beans, or sub tofu for chicken. Overall, a solid spot for quick vegan fixes.
This spot has certainly been modelled after Mucho Burrito (which my husband loves). Mucho Burrito overall is better, but this place fixed us for dinner one night. It wasn’t exceptional, but it was filling and one of the few places we managed to get some legumes on our plates! I had a salad bowl, and it included lettuce, peppers, corn, cucumber, two types of beans, two types of salsas, and a small amount of guacamole. I should have capped it there. I added a drizzle of a lime vinaigrette. As soon as it went on I thought “shoot, that’s not going to taste good”. It didn’t. It had a preserved flavor, and was oily. The salad was okay, but it would have been much, much better without it and just the salsas. It was served in a baked tortilla bowl:
One place I’m disappointed we didn’t get to: Peaceful Loft. It’s a small restaurant that I understand is fully vegan. So, would seem like an obvious choice for us to visit, right? Except that it’s Chinese food, and I can’t ever convince my crew to eat Chinese cuisine, even when vegan. It drives me crazy! I think they’d actually like it if they tried it. In fact, I know they’d love some of it – like the um, fried spring rolls. Paul especially is averse to eating Chinese food. I think it might be some association of foods he ate growing up. I think we all ate very greasy, meaty dishes from Chinese food restaurants growing up. If you have visited Peaceful Loft, let me know how it was and what menu items you loved!
That’s the food recap!
Other Trip Highlights
Our visit to Signal Hill:
In the gift shop at Signal Hill I saw this cookbook. All I could think was “only in Newfoundland”. I remember eating bologna a lot as a kid. In sandwiches or fried with eggs or potatoes. It was part of our culture and upbringing. Not sure if it’s still as common, though this cookbook would suggest so.
The girls also went up to Paul’s parents cabin (on a pond), and they had a blast going out in the boat and tubing, and also roasting marshmallows. We were sure to pack Dandies in our luggage. Roasting marshmallows in the country was a vegan travel must!
Vegan Travel Tips
Wrapping things up, here are some general vegan travel tips:
- Plan Ahead. Not just for the destination city, also the flight. For your destination, check out vegan restaurants ahead of time, and also health food stores and grocery shopping. Don’t just google and use happycow, also find facebook pages for vegan groups in that city or town. They will share gems of info that you cannot get from a google search! For the flight, plan for easy-to-eat, nourishing snacks and meals that are clean/portable (sandwiches and wraps the easiest).
- Once in town, call restaurants before visiting. Ask about their vegan options, and see what they can do for you. They may plan a meal if they don’t have obvious menu items.
- Inquire at natural health food stores! Folks working in the store may not be vegan, but will surely know some spots for vegan eats – or have some items in store.
- Keep snack bars, fruit, and other portable snacks on hand on vegan travel. I toted a bag with snacks everywhere.I found these tiger nut snacks in a local grocery store. I just picked up the one bag, and found them very nourishing when I was needing a boost!
- Hit grocery stores for veggie staples and quick vegan foods like hummus, whole grain breads, vegan sushi, bean salads.
- When all else fails, chocolate. 😋 You bet it was in my snack bag.
Have any other tips to share? Please do. Also, if you live in St. John’s or have visited, share any other restaurants or cafes that have vegan eats.