We generally do not eat animal or dairy products. Are there plenty of options, even markets?
Sure, markets are everywhere all over Europe. As far as vegan restaurants are concerned you'd find them in the highly developed western european countries but not so much in the former eastern block ones.
In Europe, what we call "organic" foods are called "bio". The whole movement away from processed, mysteriously manufactured foods, began there. The US only belatedly caught on. The hyper- and supermarkets all have alternatives to dairy and you simply needn't buy neat. Farmer's markets and small stores have huge selections of veggies-- which should be everybody's main food-- and which are usually delicious.
Just as a point of interest there is a vegan resturaunt on Marchmont Street in Bloomsbury, London called 'Veggie Delight' It offers an 'All You Can Eat' lunch for GBP4.50 ( that's less than USD10.00 ). Even if you are a confirmed meat eater that is fantastic value for money and a very good way to get lots of good, filling, nutritious food for very little money in the heart of London.
Very good question! I am vegan and had the same concerns. I included fish & seafood into my diet for the next 5 months, and I only exercise this when I'm dining with others (like dinner parties in someone's home and they are doing the cooking!) because I find that people are more open to that. It is more of a courtesy thing for me since they are cooking & this saves a lot of explaining about a vegan diet.
I have been in France & Germany for 3 weeks now and have not had any problem although I have to say that I've been eating at home more than dining out, which is typical of European lifestyle. I asked a sandwich shop at a German airport to make me a veggie sandwich. I gave very specific instructions through my new German friend who was able to translate for me. I have had soy and rice milk in both countries, soy yogurt in Cologne, etc. Here are some tips: you can't go wrong with Asian restaurants and when all else fails, request that everything be steamed!
Europe is a large area, but here is my expereince for working for Vegan clients in France.
If you are using a self catering accomadations then just buy rice and grains, and vegis like normal. If you are eating out try looking for:
-Asian restaruants (as mentioned)
-Organic (called bio in france) Restaurants or Foodstores.
-Middle eastern neigborhoods.
-Also student towns.
-Budhist temples might also have information.
-Spa/Healthclubs/Turkish Baths almost always have a cafe with several vegan options.
-Major supermarket are going to have some ready-to-eat options, packaged or un.
Check with the pharmacist for a bio store (sort of like a US co-op) and they should at least have reccomendations. Also if
Also, most countries/regions have a vegan/vegetarian society or network. Try googling "vegan restaurants in France" etc...
Also it doesn't hurt to take some freeze-dried soups etc.. from home for emergancies.
I am a vegan and just returned from a week in Paris and a week in No. Ireland. Someone above recommended happycow.com; they are the best! Also, most hostels seem to have a vegetarian outlook and can recommend places to eat. I did much better in Paris than in Ireland. I also carried some protein-rich vegan snacks and soy protein powder with me.
There is a huge change in the availability of vegetarian/vegan foods in the past few years, especially in restaurants, nearly all of which offer a veggie dish. And there are ethnic restaurants everwhere that serve veggie/vegan.
I was with an RS tour in Paris; the group meals were the hardest part. The restaurants are geared to feeding the tour, so I usually just asked them to omit the meat and pile on the veggies - and made a protein drink later. It worked.
It's all part of the adventure! Have fun!