Book reviews, Comments, Culture, In Focus

Travelling without meat

Vegetarians learned long ago how to curate a standard restaurant menu by stripping out most or all of the main dishes and focusing instead on starters, salads and side dishes.

 

Sean Sheehan

 

Depending on your location, non-meat dishes now go well beyond a boring vegetable lasagne or a salty risotto but a restaurant’s motive is often purely commercial and some chefs have scant love for meals predicated on plants and not deceased animal parts.

This can be particularly true of hotel restaurants, making “Veggie hotels” an especially appealing book for travellers who will enjoy staying and eating at a place where food without meat has more than a token presence.

The book has details and enticing photographs of over fifty hotels, mostly ones located in western Europe and a few in North America (plus two in south America) and south-east Asia. Many of them use a familiar vocabulary -‘holistic’, ‘wellness’, ‘mindfulness’ when highlighting their ethos and facilities.

Yoga classes are often a specialty and one, a guesthouse north of Lisbon on the coast, combines them with introductions to surfing and firewalking (“a union of body, mind and soul”).

The hotels are not part of branded chains and often benefit from design features that reflect the individuality of their owners.

In the heart of Florence, a rainforest environment inspires not just the rainwater showers but the furniture, upholstery and decor.

Others have only a couple of bedrooms in fabulous locations with wild landscapes; some are full-on resorts with over a hundred rooms.

Vegetarian and vegan breakfasts are a common feature in the hotels featured and some of them provide for the book a recipe for meals, from a nettle ravioli courtesy of a vegan hotel in Italy to a watermelon gazpacho from a resort in Bali.

The least costly way to cover accommodation costs when travelling is to stay in a hostel and, for vegetarians and vegans, self-catering facilities will ensure complete control over what goes into any meal. Travellers who have never stayed in a hostel, or who last experienced one many years ago, will be pleasantly surprised by the information and photographs found in “The grand hostels: luxury hostels of the world”.

The hostels in the book do have dorms beds but also provide private en suite rooms. Other facilities are listed for each hostel and they range from self-catering kitchens, restaurants cafes and bars to laundries, swimming pools and in-house cinemas.

What makes these new kinds of hostels so attractive are levels of design and decor that would not be out of place in a boutique 4- or 5-star hotel. A lot of the entries are located in Europe, west and east, but Asia is also represented and there is one in Peru.

The time has come to blow the cobwebs off your wheelie and plan some plant-based travel.

“Veggie Hotels” is published by teNeues.

“The grand hostels: luxury hostels of the world” by Budget Traveller is published by Gestalten.

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