This blog post is a following on from last weeks, Holiday Highlights post that you can read here if you wish. Today I’m sharing some things (mostly the foodie related ones) that I observed while travelling in Europe. These are my observations, so chances are your experiences in Europe were different. I’d love to read about your observations in Europe (or any other country) in the comments below.
- Sweet breakfasts – The cafes and restaurants that we went to were great, don’t get me wrong, but for someone who doesn’t eat gluten, dairy or refined sugar (and loves savoury breakfasts) the options are a bit more limited. A typically breakfast seemed to be croissants with jam or chocolate and a coffee (always a coffee), crepes or gallettes (a savoury crepe made with buckwheat… but also wheat). As a result of this we would often cook eggs and vegetables at our accommodation before going out for the day or get some fruit.
- Alcohol is so much cheaper – Alcohol is much cheaper and easily accessible on supermarket shelves in Europe however the culture surrounding alcohol is quite different than we what we too often see in Australia with alcohol fuelled violence and drinking in excess. Rather in Europe wine or beer is usually consumed with a meal and in the company of friends and family.
- In Australia, dietary requirements/preferences are well catered for – both in our supermarkets and when dining out. Gluten free options seem almost expected on menus and the supermarket shelves are filling with gluten free and paleo options (perhaps not necessarily the best options but it goes to show that consumer demand is being met). In Europe I was surprised at how long it took me to find coconut yoghurt (without dairy), coconut oil and non-pasteurised sauerkraut whereas I can find them easily in Oz.
- It is so bike friendly in Europe – even the busy cities like Paris where I admittedly had a bit of a meltdown trying to negotiate the traffic. Bike paths are abundant (and when they weren’t riding was welcomed on the road) and the terrain is favorable in many cities. Other road users (cars, buses, taxis) also seem more considerate of bike riders and even though traffic was very often so chaotic with no regards for road rules, I saw very little road rage. And side note, very few people wear helmets.
- The price and availability of fresh fruit and vegetables – In many places we found fresh fruit and vegetables in abundance at small markets and in large supermarkets with quite reasonable prices (even with the exchange rate) and of good quality.
- Takeaway isn’t very common – we only saw a few people ordering takeaway or walking around with a takeaway coffee (guilty) and in most (if not all cases) they looked like they were tourists.
- We rarely came across fast food outlets (i.e. the big M) – And when we did it was usually only in cities with a high population of tourists. But really why would you want a big mac when you can get a huge pizza for about 7 euro.
- Obesity didn’t seem to be a problem – this likely goes hand in hand with a lot of the other points here but for countries whose cultures are based heavily on food, wine and beer it was surprising to see. It goes to show that its more than just what we eat/drink that plays a part in our weight and overall health. I think the biggest percentage of obesity I saw was on the cruise ship but with unlimited food and a lot of lounging around I’m sure we all walked away with a couple of extra kilograms then we boarded with.
- The German’s are (traditionally) big on purity – in relation to beer that is. Regulations (or the German beer purity law) were put into place in 1487 that limited the ingredients in beer to hops, barley malt and water. If it contained more then these 3 ingredients it couldn’t be labeled and sold as beer in Germany. That has changed now but the locals still seem to prefer the real deal. As a result of the lack of preservatives and unnecessary additives, those who drink it don’t seem to suffer as nasty effects (or so they say).
- Culture is based heavily around meal times – We didn’t see this so much in the big touristy cities however in the smaller towns, especially in Italy it wasn’t uncommon for businesses to close from about midday for a couple of hours and everyone go have lunch with their loved ones. This encouraged eating in a more relaxed state and savoring the food (and the company) instead of eating on the run.
- And finally, how thankful I was for technology – It was an odd feeling to be uncontactable by phone (I chose to keep my phone in flight mode) for nearly 2 months however I realized how much I relied on the internet when there is a language barrier. Luckily Wi-Fi was easy to find and Google translate, TripAdvisor and Air BnB fast became the most used apps/sites on my phone.
Hope you enjoyed the read and I’m looking forward to hearing about some of your travel observations.