I have been missing in action for almost a week and I apologise to all of you who have been refreshing the home page in order to read my latest tale of food depravity. I do have a rather solid excuse though… I am in Barcelona!
Following a rather intense period of work back in the UK, I am celebrating my freedom by taking in the Catalan sights for a few weeks before jetting off on a whirlwind jaunt around the USA. Being the FGV means I will be doing my best to keep you informed of all the scrumptious vegan food that I encounter, as well as supplying you with interesting trivia and snapshots of my experiences.
Here we go… FGV is on the road!
Spain is a fabulous destination. I adore the cultural richness and historical grandness of the major cities. It is a society that struggled for decades under a stifling dictatorship that routinely and comprehensively suppressed minorities. The people of Catalonia were particularly targeted as Franco and his regime disallowed the language of the region in all areas of Government, education and entertainment. The Catalan language survived these oppressive tactics, as did the people of the region and today the autonomous community of Catalonia is a vibrant, progressive and welcoming area. Barcelona is the main city of Catalonia and readers of this blog will be interested to know it is a treasure trove of vegan delights.
One of the main tourist attractions in Barcelona is Plaça Espanya. This grand plaza houses many impressive monuments, fountains and buildings. One of the most eye catching structures is Las Arenas, a large indoor shopping complex that was a bullring in its previous life.
Built in 1900, the building was a working arena where people would pay money to watch animals being used in what I consider one of the cruelest sports in history. The arena fell into disrepair and sat unused for several decades as public interest in barbaric bullfighting waned. The future of the building was never to include the cruel sport again following the historic 2010 vote to ban bullfighting in the entire Catalonia region (the ban comes into full-effect January 1, 2012).
It is really quite poignant being inside a structure that was once home to the celebration of cruelty. Of course Las Arenas is a modern retail outlet and that is loaded with its own myriad of problems for animals. Mass consumerism of animal products still occurs within the walls, however vegans can access a range of food and services in Las Arenas that are cruelty-free.
Toiletries retailer LUSH operates an outlet within the centre. It is refreshing to be walking through a large complex and be confronted with the following announcement:
If you are unfamiliar with LUSH, the chain of personal hygiene suppliers have stores in approximately 40 countries. They employ a strong code of practice against animal testing within their own factories and the factories of their suppliers. The following paragraph is taken from the LUSH website:
“Animal testing is a Victorian practice and no one benefits from using it. Animal tests don’t give us safe chemicals or safe products, and they certainly don’t do anything for the millions of animals who will be killed.”
Thank you, LUSH.
Once you have purchased your shampoo and deodorant for your Barcelona stay, you will probably fancy a cool beverage. Smudy is a vegan-friendly juice bar situated in the food court of Las Arenas. They offer an impressive range of freshly-squeezd juices and juice shakes. The shakes are able to be veganised by swapping out dairy milk for soy. Pineapple juice with chilled soy milk sounds delightful, right? Smudy have three locations throughout Barcelona.
So you have your cosmetics and you are feeling refreshed. What now? Go shopping for vegan groceries, of course!
A chain of health food supermarkets called Veritas are dotted around Barcelona, with one outlet conveniently located within the Las Arenas centre. The stores are not entirely vegan, but they do stock a massive range of vegan products. During my visit, I was overwhelmed by the selections of vegan goodies. There was seitan, tofu, tempeh, ice cream, bread, sweets, chocolate, drinks, milks, cookies, detergents and much, much more. Veritas is a terrific place for vegans to stock up on essentials.
The Las Arenas shopping complex isn’t for everyone. I understand the thought of visiting a huge commercial space is actually repulsive for a lot of people. I enjoyed my visit. Yes, I admired the gorgeous brick architecture. Yes, I loved seeing so many vegan options in a mainstream mall. Yes, I marvelled at the 360˚ views of the city from the massive outdoor platform. All of these things were pleasing. But the biggest positive for me was walking in the steps of the countless murdered creatures used for entertainment safe in the knowledge that it will never happen again within those walls.
I took many quiet moments to reflect on the suffering of the bulls and to reconfirm my belief that animals should never be used for sports or entertainment.