Athens, home of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Greek gods and grilled meat!
Not to mention, Greek yoghurt, baklava, honey, moussaka, feta cheese - all lovely foods and once I would have devoured them all, but if you're not eating dairy or meat, they're off the list! Trying new foods and local delicacies are one of the many delights of going on holiday, however if you have food intolerances or have preferences not to eat certain foods then sometimes eating out can become quite a challenge. (Coeliacs and allergy sufferers, I can only empathise, that's quite another level).
I've come to assume that most cafes and shops these days cater pretty well for food intolerances, in Britain at least, so taking a holiday carefree winging it stance, I didn't take any snacks, as I thought the we'd be sure enough to find something easily to eat for lunch at the airport. Mistake number one. Our airport is a small, provincial one, it has a few chain shops and cafes but that's about it. Amazed by how all the sandwich or salad options contained either meat, dairy or egg, we eventually found something that myself and my daughter could eat, though overly expensive for what it was.
I was, I thought at the time, quite organised in that I'd researched a few vegan restaurants to go to before we went, but the reality was they weren't near to anywhere we happened to be at dinner time.
The first night tucked away up a little side street in the chi chi area of Athens, away from all the touristy streets, we came across a stylish looking grill restaurant. After having already looked at several restaurant menus and had to decline them for their lack of vegan options, I knew a grill bar was unlikely to work, but at this point we were all hungry, so I ventured in to check it out. Sure enough, kebabs, steaks, mixed grills, you name it, it was a carnevore's (and my son's) delight. But before I could turn around and walk out, the owner asked me if he could help. I felt a tad daft asking in a grill house if they had a vegan option, but to my surprise far from phased, he delightfully explained how his wife was a vegan and how he couldn't get his head round it and that "thankfully his kids ate meat" - and yes there were some non-meat options.
So whilst my husband and son shared a mixed grill, huge enough to satisfy the hungriest of appetites my daughter and I tucked into an amazing plate of grilled aubergines, peppers, mushrooms and courgettes, drizzled in balsamic vinegar.
We started on a culinary high which alas was not to last, at least for all of us, over the next week. Buffet breakfast is normally a source of great excitment amongst our kids and didn't disappoint my son, happy to consume all manner of sweet biscuits and pastries, followed by toast and bacon - just because away from home he can. I did have to laugh though at their 'gluten free section' which consisted of about three shrivelled looking rice cakes and a few slices of not even toastable stale bread, all individually wrapped in cling film to make them look if possible, even more unappetising. Nearly everything else was a feast of wheat, with a side of Greek yoghurt and olives, so breakfast for me was rather a disappointing few slices of 'fresh' fruit.
The rest of the week, I faired better than my daughter for main courses, as we found a lovely seafood restaurant one lunchtime near the coast. My son unable to eat meat for once, was happy with his whitebait and prawns and my daughter, resigned to eating a mixture of side dishes, was content with an aubergine dish, houmous, pitta bread and olives.
It wasn't always ideal, but we got by and on the last night we couldn't resist to go back to our first new favourite restaurant, the grill bar. In this case the old saying "Never judge a book by its cover" couldn't have been more fitting and will be my motto for our next foreign culinary adventure. There will nearly always be something you can eat, whether it's a medley of side dishes in a restaurant or a trip to the local market to buy some fresh ingredients or street food - that's half the fun of being on holiday. Oh and skip the inclusive buffet breakfast and buy your own local food it will be far fresher and tastier. Sorry son, but you're bettter off without that all that sugar anyway.