France is the country that essentially banned vegetarian diets in schools, popularised foie gras and serves ortelans. I’m not one for promoting national stereotypes, but it’s safe to say that outside of Paris and perhaps other major cities, you’ll struggle to eat vegan in France. Most dishes will have meat, cheese, or both.
We went away for a short ski weekend in La Clusaz, a beautiful mountain town near the Swiss border. This blog is shout-out to the restaurants that helped us out, and some general tips for travelling outside of major urban areas.
Do your research. Websites and apps like TripAdvisor and HappyCow are invaluable for finding restaurants with vegetarian and vegan options, or the places that can accommodate your needs. These sites are crowd-funded so do your part to help the rest of us out: if you’ve had a great experience at a restaurant, give them a positive review. (If you’ve had a bad experience, name and shame.)
Pack snacks. It’s easy to get the usual bread, crisps and fries wherever you travel, but it’s harder to find good sources of plant protein and trace minerals. Our favourites are bags of nuts, Nakd bars, and Graze do a nice spicy protein mix (which is overpriced because it’s Graze but still tasty).
Get a vegan passport. The Vegan Society produces a vegan passport app with information in nearly 80 languages, and a clever “when all else fails” pictorial guide to what you eat. It’s also available in print. We used it in France – don’t leave home without one.
If in doubt, just ask. There’s no reason why you can’t order a pizza without cheese, and chefs will often make you something that’s not on the menu. Even in France! If you’re struggling to find vegan options on the menu, it doesn’t hurt to enquire within.
The Best of La Clusaz
Le Petit Gourmand: fresh, light and crispy pizzas. Open late. Beer on tap. It ticked all the boxes when we arrived late in the evening!
La Pause: this lovely cafe next to the Beauregard cable car had “vegetarians welcome” in huge letters – the only place in town that made that claim. Tasty veggie burgers and fries.
Auberge des Aravis: we were here as part of a larger group. The staff dropped a huge plate of charcuterie on the table as soon as we arrived. On our other side was a quarter wheel of raclette clamped into a special cheese grill. (only in France!) We asked the staff for a vegan option and they produced salmon; after showing them the vegan passport, they sorted us out with sautéed mushrooms and potatoes. Friendly staff and a nice atmosphere, assuming you can tolerate the intense smell of melting French cheese.
There’s always bread! Pastries and brioche are off the menu, but fresh bread in France is cheap and excellent.