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October 17, 2010

Vegan in Spain, part 1

Thanks for all of your comments on my Vegan in NYC post. After three wonderful days in NYC it was time to say goodbye to The Big Apple, and hello to Spain! My travel companion Becca flew into JFK to meet me, and from there we flew direct to Málaga, a beautiful coastal city in southern Spain. In the spirit of wasting no time, we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and immediately left for a 4 hour bicycle tour of the city. It was the perfect way to get the lay of the land and learn the history of the city. This turned out to be one my favorite activities from the entire trip.

We worked up quite the appetite biking and thanks to HappyCow I had a few vegan-friendly restaurants lined up.

Loving Hut was my first choice, which also happens to be the only 100% vegan restaurant that I found in all of the cities that we were visiting in Spain. Loving Hut is a Taiwanese buffet and salad bar, owned by the most adorable elderly Taiwanese couple. The man was very enthusiastic to talk about his love of the vegan diet. My Spanish got me far enough to understand that he is vegan based on his religion, and he showed off some tai chi moves while exclaiming that he is 80 years old - "Ochenta, ochenta!!"

At his most comical moment, the owner was trying to speak some English. When he was talking about his religion he said, "I love! I love!", with his hands positioned over his heart. After saying it several times it changed to, "I love you! I love you!" We smiled at him as we munched away on our salads, and he started walking away continuing to verbalize his love. He disappeared into the kitchen and a few minutes later we heard him shout, "I love you!" over the sounds of the clanking pans. Hanging out with the quirky owners definitely made the experience.
As far as the food goes, I am sad to report that it was not amazing. The salad was light and very refreshing, but the hot foods were lacking. The food was barely warm and the flavors were too bland for my taste. Regardless, I was happy to eat a plateful of tofu, seitan, and veggies, and to support this wonderful couple's establishment. My omnivore travel companion was particularly underwhelmed, and from that point she wanted to avoid eating at other veg restaurants the rest of the trip, which was the biggest tragedy of all!

Check out this fun wall decor in the restaurant! The plaque translates to: "Elite vegan and vegetarian. These intelligent, beautiful, and talented people are vegans or vegetarians. You aren't?"

I came to find out later that Loving Hut is a vegan chain restaurant with locations all over the world. I am curious if they are all set up similarly, serving the same type of food. I so wanted to love this restaurant, and I did love everything about it except the food. Shame!

Dining experiences aside, Málaga was my favorite city that I visited in Spain. The short 24 hours that I was there was not long enough! The next morning we checked out of our hotel and returned to the airport to pick up a rental car. We drove up the coast towards our next stop in Cartagena. We were spoiled by views of the Mediterranean and varied landscapes that Spain has to offer along the coast.

Here is Becca with our little stick shift car. We pulled over to get some shots of the amazing view on the other side of the guard rail.
See what I mean?
We also needed to stretch our legs!

While we were on the road we stayed fueled with our favorite local snack, mercona almonds. These almonds are blanched, then sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. It is a different almond experience, let me tell you--so, so good. Don't pass these up if you have the opportunity to try them. To my delight I discovered that Trader Joe's carries this Mediterranean specialty. Their bagged versions are not as amazing as the fresh ones we picked up in Málaga, but still pretty darn good.

En route to Cartagena we stopped off in the city of Mazarrón for dinner. We had the goal to eat Indian food at least once in Spain (since we love India!), and apparently this little restaurant in Mazarrón was the one to eat at in all of southern Spain. Maharaja Palace was everything we hoped it would be. I ordered a lentil curry and a spicy garlic potato curry, and she ordered chicken. We both shared an order of coconut rice and roti. You give this girl and I some good Indian food and that is when we are happiest!

We left Mazarrón full and happy, but not before we stopped off at a rocky beach on the side of the road. The sun was setting and it was so calm and beautiful.

Onward to Cartagena for the night! We arrived at sundown, checked into our hotel, and went out for some sangria before hitting the hay. We did some shopping and walking around early morning just to see the city briefly, and got back on the road before noon.

Next stops: Alicante and Valencia. More on that, and Amsterdam, in my next post!

Here is where you can find the restaurants mentioned in this post:
Loving Hut - Calle Peregrino, 2. 29002 Malaga, Spain
Maharaja Palace - Avenida de Doctor Meca 116, Puerto de Mazarrón, Spain


  1. One of my vegetarian friends went to Spain a few years ago and she reported that it was SUPER hard to find veg food since almost everything has pork in it! It looks like you made do, though!

  2. I just love to see all your trip photos. Thank you for taking the time to share.

  3. Thanks for sharing your trip, it looks like a wonderful time.

    Too bad the only vegan restaurant wasn't that good.

  4. a vegan chain restaurant, that wasnt that great...thats even more disappointing then a bad regular restaurant.:(

  5. SUch an amazing trip you are having!!! I have a Loving Hut where I am too, and I love it! :)

  6. Oh, and I am surpirsed that that Loving Hut had bland foods, I feel like ours is opposite, like somtimes TOO flavorful! haha

  7. Oh my goodness, that looks like so much fun! My sister in law lives in Granada. She says healthy foods are hard to come by there, and organic is just plain weird. Enjoy yourself! I need to visit Europe soon :)

  8. Oh my goodness, what lovely pictures! I've only ever been to central and northern Spain (Madrid and Bilbao), but I definitely need to visit the southern cities!

    I just read a really interesting article in VegNews about the woman who started the Loving Hut chain... quite enlightening! I've never eaten at any of their locations, though.

  9. Looks like an awesome time! I've been wanting to make Indian food but because I've never had it I wouldn't know if it was good or not. Note to self: go eat out Indian...

  10. What a nice trip! The Loving Hut's offerings in Philly are much, much different. I would like to try that salad bar!


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