Vegan greek salads & adventures in Paxos Island!
In august this year (2017), I went to the Greek islands Paxos & Corfu with my sister and my mom for a week.
We spent a really nice holiday and I'm very happy to share with you the beautiful landscape, beaches & turquoise waters that Paxos has to offer, with a few pictures throughout this blog post.
This blog will focus on the "foodie" part of our trip : where we ate, what we eat (me being vegan, and my sister & mom for about 90%!), the few vegan-friendly tips I can give you etc.
However, if you have any specific questions in regards to the island, I'll be very happy to answer in the comments!
The first time I travelled to Greece, Crete precisely, I looked like that :
I was 7-8 years young. Food-wise, I kept 4 excellents memories from it : greek salad (veggies, fêta), cretan pita ('bread' stuffed with fêta & drizzled with honey), tzatziki (cucumber & greek yoghurt) and Solero Shots (those sorbets in marble shapes, real' chemical, real' sweet, not greek at all, but we loved them and actually never found them back home again!).
Before leaving to Paxos this year, I thus had a few apprehensions regarding my capability to survive being a vegan in Greece.. . I wasn't too worried about finding vegetarian meals (no meat, no fish).. but I feared the abondance of dairy products... so, let's find out if I made it alive in the following lines..(hint: I did)
Paxos is a little island that's 12km long and 2km wide. It is part of the ionian islands which are located in the north-west of continental Greece, not far from Albania and south of Italy. To reach Paxos, you need to take the ferry, either from Corfu - the main island north (what we did), either from the Continent.
It was thus no surprise that many, MANY vacationers were italians! For that matter, the architecture of the houses wasn't the typical "white & blue" greek style, but more like a venitian one. That's it for the 'historical' talk,.. we're getting away from the topic, hey ? Well, I see italian influence, I see italian restaurants... getting it ? 😬😶 Massive Relief! if Greek cuisine was too difficult to "veganize", I wouldn't be starving! LOL ;)
Day 1 : First night in Corfu.
We arrived mid-evening in Corfu. After checking into the hotel (Atlantis Hotel, near the ferry docks), we headed towards the old city to look for a place to eat. It was already quite late, around 10pm, we were starving ! On the way, a Taverna (traditional greek restaurant) inspired us confidence and the waiter (a lil old man, probably owner too) seemed super friendly!
A quick skim through the menu and without second thoughts, the 3 of us are in for a Greek Salad, just to get us in the swing of things! My mom & I ask for "no fêta", which didn't seem to bother nor surprise! The salad's ingredients were very fresh and chopped up last minute. Speaking of which, I haven't told you what a Greek Salad is made of yet, so here we go : tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, oregano, fêta, olive oil and sometimes green peppers! As a side, we ordered some bread and freshly squeezed orange juice!
Day 2 : First day in Paxos
We woke up quite early that morning in order to buy tickets for the first leaving ferry to Paxos, around 8:15. Luckily the office opening 'from 7am' was near our hotel. Unluckily, the office didn't open at 7 am! Anyways, after waiting for, what felt to be an everlasting time.. we finally get our tickets! The ferry was now leaving in just a couple of minutes for a 1h30 ride!
When we arrived in Gaios, the main village of Paxos, Ana, a friend of a friend of my mom, was waiting for us with our host to lead us to our accomodation (Sofia's apartment, located 5 minutes walk away from the city-center).
Once we dropped our bags, there was only one thing we looked forward to : EAT ! One of the main street of Gaios is along the port. It holds the majority of cafés, restaurants and souvenirs boutiques from the town. It was already 10:30 AM so, even if we were really hungry, we went for a big freshly squeezed orange juice, and a coffee.
After a walk around the village, a brief spotting of restaurants for later, and a reservation for a boat for the next 2 days, hunger started to kick in again! We sit down at a super cute place, Libretto Café. Since it was more of a café than a "proper" restaurant, the menu is rather simple, but that's perfect for us. Left with the choice of a Greek Salad versus a Cretan Salad, I decide not to be too adventurous and to keep my energy to explain my special "diet" for later.. I'll have a GSWOF please ! (aka, Greek Salad WithOut Fêta) ! Same for my mom, and my (wild) sister goes for the Cretan one. To our great delight, salads are "meal size" : a big bowl for us, and a legit salad bowl for the cretan salad (which I will reveal the ingredients of in a bit!) ! Taste wise, cucumbers, onion, ripe tomatoes, and mostly OLIVE OIL.. well, we weren't expecting anything else, but at the same time.. it's so simple yet so good! Price wise, 5€50 per salad, unbeatable up until that day, and actually, to our whole Paxos Holiday! After another lil coffee, our energy level is replenished and we're ready to explore the surroundings.
Around 6pm, hunger strikes again 😭 .. let's be real tho, getting full with 2 veggies salads, 2 orange juices and 2 coffee, is not really ma thing! LOL ! We decide to go to the supermarket before dinning, just to get some stuff for the breakfasts to come. And wow... dreamland in front me (well, depends for who!)..endless stacks of watermelon everywhere !
More over... it's only 38 cents a kilo! (about 3€ in Paris!). I, of course, decide to get myself a huge watermelon for my breakfasts. We also buy couple of other fruits (more or less ripe!), few bananas, lemons, and we score the last fruit&nut mix box of the shelf! Back to our flat, we quickly check TripAdvisor, to spot a restaurant and then we get ready. We picked Mambo Restaurant, offering both greek & italian dishes.
Just like what we've experienced so far, all staff fully understands english, which gives me enough confidence to warn them about my "special vegan diet" !
In order not to sound like an UFO and throw at them "I'm vegan, what can I eat?", I'm easing into it.. "do you have any vegetarian options ? without fish either ? (fish being an animal and not a vegetable, as a lot of people seem to sometimes forget 🤣🤣🤣). "ok, and does ("this dish") contains cheese ? yogurt ?". At Mambo, the waitress smiles at me and says : "-are you a vegan ?" hahahaha "-yes, yes that's it!". She says"-oh, it just came in to Greece, vegans" ! I was so pleased to know that! .. even if the way she said it mostly sounded like we were some kind of fashion trend or new civilisation! 🤣 ! Anyways, we understood each other, which was what mattered ! On the menu card, she points different vegan-friendly & vegetarian dishes, which she offers to remove the cheese from !
Being on the edge of dying from starvation, I needed something FILLING. Even if that option was easy, "pasta" had never been so appropriate to resist it! I chose Spaghettis Pomodoro, my mom picks "Briam" (greek ratatouille) and my sister "Stuffed Tomato & Pepper". As entrée, mom picks fried eggplants, sis grilled fêta, and I take the "potato dip" - which is actually naturally vegan (potato, starch, garlic, flour).
Here come the entrées with a basket of fresh bread. Right away, I ask how the fried eggplants are made. "just rolled in flour and fried in oil" she said. Cool, I'll be able to steal some too :p! Then, our mains come! Everything is so good and I can try it all. It allows me to see that the stuffed tomato & pepper has grilled cheese at the very top- something to keep in mind if we decide to come back! My pasta is perfectly al-dente, and mostly.. how surprising.. drowned in olive oil !
Now we're stuffed. After we pay the bill, a complimentary cake is offered, obviously not vegan, a sort of sweetened hard chocolate bar... but I'm "not missing anything out" according to my sister! We then came home and didn't last very long since we were awaited early in the morning to rent our boat!
Eating vegan day 2 : done & dusted 😎.
Day 3 : First Boat Day
For breakfast, I cut 2 big slices of watermelon on which I squeezed some fresh lime juice. So good! Then, we came back to the harbour to get the boat, and off we go exploring crystalline waters & secret coves for the day!
We follow along the east coast till we decided, around 11:30, to moor at Lakka's port for a little coffee break. Eventually, the seats were so confortable and, most of all, in the shades so.. why missing out on a little GSWOF ? That one was very deceiving: cucumbers roughly chopped, way too much onions, not enough tomatoes and expensive for that tiny size!
I definitely was on the right path to become a Greek Salad food critic.. A lil expresso and off we go spending the afternoon sun bathing, taking pictures underwater and diving..!
Late in the afternoon, after admiring a baby tan & taking a shower, we walked back to Gaios City-Center to have dinner. We go for a safe bet, Mambo, which, that night, was crowded out! We didn't make any reservation but luckily the waitress could find us a table between 2 bookings ! Having adored my sister's dish the night before, I pick the "stuffed pepper & tomato" (Yemista for the greek name) without cheese of course! Same choice for my mom and my sister takes couple of entrées : tarama, tzatziki & cretan salad (#notvegan!). My dish was so good, the stuffing is made from rice, veggies, parsley, salt, olive oil and tomato sauce.. pepper & tomato are comfit in the oven, probably in about 4L of olive oil, but it'd be silly for me to be super strict about that ! haha! At least, oil could fill me up since the meals during the day were pretty light.
Day 4 : Second Boat Day
My breakfast remains the same winning combo: watermelon & lime juice !
That day we had planned to explore the west coast of Paxos with our boat, and Anti-Paxos, the little very-touristic island close by. The guy renting the boat had advised us to go on the west side up until 11am - after that time, the sea would start being more turbulent. Indeed, even from 9am, the sea was very much less peaceful than the day before!
Luckily, our awesome captain - my sister - led us really well ! 👩🏻✈️
Around noon, we headed towards Anti-Paxos and the wind really started picking up. We make it to the first bay, Vrikka, where we witness the definition of a "touristic place" ! It is so beautiful, water is turquoise, almost like in Tahiti.. but about 30 boats, from different sizes, are anchored in the bay. We could catch sight of the following bays, which seemed just as busy. We chose to anchor here after all, but as the bottom was sandy and the sea 'swelly', we couldn't leave the boat alone while having lunch at the restaurant on the beach.
On our right, a few boats were tied up at a somewhat "pontoon" (in rocks) for customers only.. well, that couldn't have been more perfect ! After a tricky, but mastered, manoeuvre.. lunch was well deserved !
We sit at a table from Taverna Spiros, our boat in sight. I read the whole menu and I really wonder what I was going to get.. oh ! what about a Greek Salad Without Fêta ? It had been so long! (side note, "without fêta" option was clearly stated on the menu this time, which spared us a full 1€, amazing deal my friends! lol). On the side, we had some bread and some fresh watermelon juice for me, and OJ for mom and sissy.
Wind hadn't gone down for a bit, and the sea was getting wilder.. we glimpsed a few times at our boat, which was increasingly rocking. Only a few mouthfuls after, we decided to go untie the boat, scared that it would smash on the rocks. My sis climbs onto the boat and weigh anchor while I strive to prevent the front of the boat from smashing the rock (and grinding my foot while doing so..). This might sound like it was peacefully executed, but this episode was very much apocalyptic! On our side, an italian couple, who also rented a boat, couldn't untie theirs! I could see their boat hitting the rocks while they were yelling ! (maybe they were just loud.. italians after all ! LOL ;))! Even worse, their rope had stuck ours ! Quiiickly, I pulled it with all the strength possibly remaining in my body (told you fitness would be useful one day!) and I untied everyone.. adios amigos! Back at the restaurant, we asked for a doggy bag so we could join my sister on our yacht!
We spent a couple hours swimming & sailing through the other bays of Anti-Paxos, before dropping the anchor in a much more peaceful place, south of Paxos, close to a little church.
In the evening, we choose to improvise on the restaurant in Gaios. Just next to Mambo, we pick Taverna Pan & Theo. The 3 of us get the "stuffed eggplant", same as the night before in aubergine version, and this time, cheese wasn't even in the "original" recipe! Uuuuuh, baked aubergin is life! The waiter brings us another piece of cake (the same one!), but the sight of a cockroach under the tables kinda speeds us to leave! We grab dessert in another little café, a bit further, a fruit salad for me!
Day 5 : Exploring the island
After breakfast (which remains the same!), we pick up the car (that we'd booked the night before) to explore the inside of the island. Even if Paxos isn't really big, roads are hilly and walking around would take an eternity. So we enjoy our little car to discover villages, churches and beaches that we spotted from the sea on our first day with the boat.
At lunch time, we halt in Lakka's village again, to eat at a restaurant Ana had recommanded : Stasinos. Like a habit, a reflex, the fear of a missing out, I get the GSWOF, but this time afford the luxury to get oven roasted potatoes with herbs on the side ! What a celebration! haha
Honestly, potatoes were so good! Greek salad too by the way, much better than the one two days before. I even found it was LACKING olive oil (that's it! was I now suffering from this addiction too ?). My sister got a GSWF and halloumi sticks caramelised in honey and sesame. My mom also goes for a GSWOF. For desert, we walk towards the harbour to sit down in a very "english-style" café, Harbour Light, where I have a 'smoothie' and my sister a 'homemade juice'! Fatal error, not good !
Then we spent the day visiting some more churches and beaches. Ana suggests we go get a drink at Erimitis Restaurant, a place with an unrestricted view of sunset and impressive cliffs. We get there a little 'early', this place is known to get busy! For diner, we planned to go to a restaurant in another village, also suggested by Ana, but I just have a curious look at the menu here. What ? OMG ! There's a dish called « Vegan Linguini » ! Despite this incredible and unexpected call, I resist it! LOL. So we get some cocktails with a falafel plate & hummus espuma, very good and quite cheap for the place!
We stare at the sun setting down with a lil « jazzy » concert in the background.
For dinner, we join Lagos village. There were almost more people than in Gaios ! We find our recommended restaurant which tells us there is a 30 minute wait-time - it was already 10pm, and I wasn't sure if I was hungry, or if hunger had gone! Luckily, the wait was shortened and we get the menus. I ask the waitress what's vegetarian and without cheese (eggs & butter are not commun in greek cuisine) and she points the GSWOF (oh please no..! i kinda regret my vegan linguini already !!) or the « Giant Baked Beans ». However, I see the 'stuffed tomatoes & peppers', but she tells me the cheese is already mixed in the stuffing! Ok then, let's go for the baked beans! These were giant white beans in a tomato & herb sauce with olive oil, which actually, was pretty good!
Day 6 : Beach & Beach
We started the day with a yoga session at sunrise, and my last piece of watermelon! Then, since we still had our car for a few hours, we enjoy a couple of last beaches & trails hardly reachable without!
Around 11, we grab a fresh OJ and a coffee, and then decide to go back to our favourite place for lunch, the one from our first day here : Café Libretto. My sister had since tried to sell me her Cretan Salad like it was some sort of incredible dream, so I surrender and decide to give it a go! As promised, here are the Cretan Salad ingredients : tomatoes, olives, fêta, oregano & ntakos - a dried barley bread that soaks up olive oil and gets as soft as one can dream of! For me, without fêta, this salad was pretty much a tomato and croutons salad. But well, I decide to go for it and ask our awesome waitress to swap fêta for cucumbers (cause why not ?). My mom holds onto her GSWOF. Fifteen minutes later, our salads come, mmm I sort of have a very good feeling about it! A single bite, and I can't put my fork down.. this bread.. this salad! Madness! 😍 How is it even possible to make something that good with that little ? (with olive oil obviously!). For dessert (this salad really opened my appetite!), I have a fruit salad which, once more, comes in a very decent size!
We spend the afternoon at the beach & other water activities...
At night, we had booked a table at a 'fancier' italian restaurant Kouzini. There was pretty much 3 choices on the menu, seafood, fish and pasta. Let's go for pasta then! Even though the waiter tells me 'fresh pasta don't contain eggs', i'm being suspicious and I prefer the classic penne with sun veggies & olive oil ! Then we got complimentary watermelon which had me in a good mood!
Day 7 : Last day in Paxos
That morning, my sister and I went back for another yoga session and some pictures at sunrise. My breakfast was simply made of banana, peaches, and some dried fruit & nuts.
Then, Ana invited us to a ceremony at the little church were we had dropped anchor the other day. Over there, we swam and we got offered some blessed bread (vegan).
Back to Gaios in the late morning, we follow Ana in her home to pick up the olive oil we had ordered! She gifts us a beautiful bunch of dried oregano that she'd picked in April!
For lunch, we ask Ana to join us at Café Libretto... for a last cretan salad ! I really loved it more than greek salad! My mom still wanted her GSWOF (despite our glorious recommendations!)
After packing up our suitcases & saying goodbyes to our catmates, it was time to take the ferry back to Corfu for the night and the full next day.
For diner, we check couple of places on Trip Advisor, but the menus are not available online. When we get there, the first restaurant only offers seafood & fish.. despite the fact the place is beautiful.. I think it's doomed to failure for me ! The menu of the second restaurant, Pomo D’oro, seems a little bit more varied. The waitress comes to offer advise, and notice we speak french, she calls her colleague to the rescue! The latter speaks french so I ask her if there is any vegetarian options, with no animal products at all. She's very enthusiastic and ask for a moment so she can check with the chef. She comes back and offers to swap the cream for tomato sauce in the aubergine ravioli. Perfect! I take an entrée which is a wonderful fruit&veggie cubed salad, with a watermelon broth ! The main dish is also very yummy ! I didn't have any vegan choice for desert, but being honest, I was pretty full anyways!
Day 8 : Last day in Corfu
In order to enjoy every bit of this last day in Greece, we left the hotel early to grab breakfast in the old city. Walking away from the main street, we find a cute tiny place, « Puppet Café ». On the menu : fresh juices, greek yoghurt with fruits and nuts, croissants, toats.. My sister and mom take the yoghurt, and I take the same.. without the yoghurt ;) As for the drink, we get the ginger-lemon-pineapple-apple & honey juice (which I ask to remove). Everything is made to order and the juice is extracted with a juicer! Unfortunately, the fruits weren't ripe which, for me who just had that to bite on, was kind of frustrating! I order an expresso to dim my sorrow.. lol.
The nice lil guy comes back to our table and puts on the table, without notice and time for anything, 3 big pieces of toast... with cheese and cinnamon ! 'compliments of the house'..! Considering my mom doesn't eat cheese by taste, and I, by choice.. the situation was delicate! Luckily, my sis at the rescue saved us by getting the cheese off, which was easily entirely 'removable'!
Then, we took the bus to visit Sissi 's Palace, Achilleion.
Or, to be exact, we took A bus, which turned out to be the wrong one! Not an issue, we could visit the beautiful village of Benitses - where we spotted the perfect stairs for a lil instagram photoshoot..
We then joined the Palace, half walking half hitch hiking..
We came back to Corfu around 3 pm and lots of restaurants and shops were close for nap time ! We grabbed our last GSWOF in a lil joint which I wouldn't recommend... and then got fresh figs to find comfort! We heard that our flight got delayed but still had to be at the airport at the initial time, so we spent the last hours walking in Corfu, MonRepos and the fortress. Then, we took the cab to the airport .. and that's how our trip ended!
Food - wise, here are some fact I've drawn from it :
- Cretan salad is more satiating than Greek salad, especially if you're vegan.
- Very little dishes contain eggs or butter, except if you pick a quiche or a cake, obviously! But watch out for sneaky cheese in vegetarian dishes!
- Ordering a GSWOF hasn't surprised nor offended anyone!
- Olive oil gets you full, in case you had doubts. Even if at home I am rarely having it, it was the most calorie-dense food of my meals. Without it, I think I would have been starving a lot, since I ate way less quantity than at home!
- Also, you will smell olive oil.. yes, YOU, your perspiration (and all of your clothes!)
- If I could eat vegan in a rather 'remote' place, anyone can do it! :) Although, if you want to eat vegan AND "healthy", it can be a bit tricky with the olive oil.. -except if you are cooking for yourself !
What about you ? Did you go to Paxos, Corfu, Greece or anywhere else this summer ? Thanks for taking time to read me ! I hope you enjoyed that blog post & I can't wait to have your feedback and read you ! Chat soon !
lots of love !