Tag Archives: Affordable Europe

A Vegetarian in Paris


In most parts of Europe, it’s a little tricky to be a vegetarian.  This display window in Amsterdam celebrates the joys of pork. My traveling life would be easier if I were a carnivore. I could grab a hot dog anywhere and never slow down.


But in some ways, it’s easier to be a vegetarian in Europe than in the town where I live most of the time. In my Colorado ski-and- ranching town, beef cattle on the hoof turn into beef steaks on the grill when they’re about 18 months old. In these parts, a ranch kid as young as eight commonly chooses and fattens a calf for market for over a year. The child feeds the animal grain and walks it in the fields to develop muscle tissue. In early fall, the child leads the resulting steer, weighing about 1200 pounds, into the show ring at the county fair. The steer wins a ribbon and basks in thunderous applause. Then the child bids a tearful farewell to the animal as it’s sold to the highest bidder.  Local restaurants post photos of the winning animals they’ve purchased. It’s the circle of life here.

I have the greatest respect for ranchers and their traditions. But I just don’t eat meat. When I first moved here, I politely declined a chicken casserole at a community event.  “I’ll just take some rice,” I said. The server gave me a blank look.  “I’m a vegetarian,” I explained.

“But this is chicken!”

“I know,” I said, as people behind me in line fidgeted.  “I don’t eat meat.”

The server was completely mystified.  “But this is chicken!”  She was still shaking her head in disbelief as I walked away with my plate of plain rice.


Obviously I am not much of a foodie, unless being a connoisseur of omelets counts. In Paris, every cafe serves an omelet and no one raises an eyebrow. The humblest establishment can whip up an excellent omelet quickly, and it almost always can be ordered with vegetables.

Ethnic restaurants, Indian or Asian, do have vegetarian items on their menus. But they also tend to have unfamiliar sauces and spices.  I’m reluctant to risk indigestion on a trip. I’m pretty cautious even though the menus are enticing.

So aside from omelets, my fallback, especially in France, is the ever-delicious crepe. In France in particular, entree crepes are made with a substantial buckwheat batter.  They’re called “galettes.” Actually, I’d cheerfully eat galettes or crepes every day if I could.

Crepe with Greens

Crepe with Greens

Crepe with Ratatouille

Crepe with Ratatouille

Of course all these light, healthy meals leave plenty of room for my favorite:

Crepe with Chocolate and Caramel

Crepe with Chocolate and Caramel

In the United States, there was once a chain of restaurants called the Magic Pan which served only crepes.  You could walk in and find all crepes, all the time!  Too bad they’re gone. It’s just one more reason to travel to France every chance I get!


Affordable Europe: An Old Mill in Lindau


What’s your dream trip to Europe?  Some people dream of a once-in-a-lifetime trip in 5-star hotels, being waited on hand and foot, eating leisurely gourmet meals, and being chauffeured around by private guides.  That’s not me. This is the first post in an occasional series about how I manage to travel (almost) as much as I want.  Of course it’s never enough!

My dream trip is my next trip, and I’m lucky enough to be always planning a trip. (Having a spouse who accumulates a ton of frequent flier miles helps).  I’ve crossed the pond again and again, until it’s become second nature, discovering new places and revisiting old favorites.  I want to go my own way, trying my best to look and act like a local. (Europeans value their own treasures; they do a lot of sightseeing themselves). When I’m gazing at a spectacular cathedral or wandering in a museum full of priceless art, I don’t want to be thinking I have to be sure to take it all in at once.  Instead, I want to be thinking that this sight and plenty of others will be waiting for me next time.  By traveling in a reasonably frugal way, I do very often return to favorite places, learning more and delving deeper into the reasons I love them.


Years ago I picked up one of the very first books by Rick Steves, Europe Through the Back Door.  It’s updated every year.  I’ve been using Rick’s principles and his excellent guidebooks ever since, and have taken enough trips that I’ve moved beyond his basics.  Nowadays, though, I mostly avoid his featured hotels–just because they tend to be all booked up and full of other Americans like me.  I’m in Europe to mingle with Europeans.

After airline tickets, the biggest expense of European travel is lodging.  I’m a keen student of Tripadvisor and other online resources.  Nowadays there are so many reviews and pictures available, posted by actual travelers, that it’s pretty easy to find nice affordable places to stay with no unpleasant surprises.


One such place, on my last trip, was the Landhotel Martinsmeuhle just outside Lindau, Germany. (With either a car or knowledge of easy public transportation, I very often seek out places just outside the center of the action). Lindau is on the northern shore of the Bodensee, the large lake known as Lake Constance on its southern shore in Switzerland.  The Arlberg area of the Austrian Alps starts just a few miles away on the westernmost shore. The Swiss Alps and the tiny country of Liechtenstein are also a short drive away.


Landhotel Martinsmeuhle has been in the same family for generations.  The large main building was once a mill, converted to tourist rooms decades ago, when a big selling feature was having a sink with running water in all the rooms. Bathrooms from that era were shared.

Now, all the lovely, quiet rooms have private baths. It is still a working farm on a small scale, but the real focus is on keeping guests happy. There are pretty country details everywhere.


There are charming resident animals:  a friendly dog and at least two pretty, attention-seeking cats, goats, a pony, ducks, and rabbits. There are extensive gardens and bikes to use in the surrounding countryside. The buffet breakfast, included in the room rate, is generous enough to set me up for light eating the rest of the day. It includes goodies like homemade preserves from berries on the property.


The charming restaurant serves delicious evening meals. As a bonus the restaurant serves as a kind of living room where guests are welcome to mingle with the owner’s family and friends who stop by to visit.  There is a pretty library for use by guests.


The rates at Martinsmeuhle are less than what I typically pay for a forgettable interstate motel on a road trip in the USA. Europeans have been welcoming guests for generations.  They’re good at it, at all price levels.  TIme to work on my next trip!