Are you a frequent or even occasional traveller? If so, do you have a specific routine when it comes to eating when you're away from home, be it en route, in hotels, or at a restaurant or café?
For those for whom eating is considered merely a means of surviving and staving off hunger, decisions as to what to have may tend towards spontaneity, with little or no forward planning involved, whereas for two wholefood vegans, one of whom needs to avoid gluten, handing over responsibility for what you put in your body to a third party can be, shall we say, challenging.
This is the test we were put to recently when we left Berlin for the first time in two years to travel to Britain. In our time as Berliners, we've developed a well-worn set of routines where food and eating is concerned. This is helped by the fact that the range of wholefoods on offer in Berlin surpasses anything we have ever known. For the likes of us, it really is food heaven!
So to our journey. Opting to travel by train from Berlin to Brussels and then on to London via Eurostar, to then continue further north to visit our respective families, a planned rail strike meant we had to rent a car when we arrived at St Pancras. We'd decided to stay in hotels for the duration of our visit rather than impose on others. We knew therefore that breakfast, invariably a high point of our day, might pose something of a challenge.
Overall, we stayed in 5 different hotels during our entire 10 day trip and so were subjected to 5 different breakfast experiences. Two of the hotels we stayed in didn't offer breakfast at all, so we improvised with our pre-bought supplies of dried fruit, two different oat cereals, oat milk powder made up into milk with bottled water, and a variety of fresh fruit bought on the way. This worked superbly, even in a cramped hotel room. We felt rather pleased with ourselves! The hotels that did serve breakfast each offered a different experience. The hotel in York had a reasonable selection of fruit and the member of staff on duty readily served us porridge made with water on both mornings. That deserved a big tick.
The hotel in Nottingham also served breakfast, but some prior advance detective work had already indicated that there were few vegan-friendly and gluten-free options on offer, and this swayed us towards preparing an improvised breakfast in our room once again.
The star of the show, in some ways, was the hotel in Cologne on our return journey. Though not for reasons you might expect. The breakfast buffet was the kind of breakfast that might well have been served had you visited the same hotel 30 years ago. A selection of cold meats and sausage, cheese, scrambled eggs and bread rolls.
Our options were therefore limited to sliced cucumber, julienned green and red peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Slightly dismayed at the fact we'd each paid 12 Euros for this breakfast, we asked the very pleasant Italian woman in the kitchen if she could offer us any gluten-free bread options. She nodded, walked off and reappeared with a bag of gluten-free rolls which she then heated up in the oven for us. It wouldn't have been our first choice, but they turned out to be perfectly acceptable and a quick check of the ingredients list made us raise our eyebrows.
Things certainly have improved! She also proceeded to put out a selection of rice cakes and corn cakes for us. It left us feeling like we were being singled out for special treatment, and her warm smile when we thanked her lit up our day!
So all in all, though our experience was somewhat mixed and highlighted the challenges that face those who choose to eat in a way that veers from the norm, we discovered that it is possible to eat both well and healthily if, like us, you are prepared to improvise a little and think outside the box. We loved our experience and know that the next time we travel away from home for a period of time, if the accommodation is unable to provide us with something suitable, we still have breakfast sorted!