Gluten Free Stavanger, Norway

Booking our trip to Stavanger less than 36 hours before the plane departed didn’t really give me a great deal of time to research gluten options there. However, having visited Norway as a gluten free traveller before, I was confident I’d be relatively OK. In fact, it turned out much better than OK…

McDonalds

The Golden Arches offer gluten free buns in Norway (and all over Scandinavia). Whilst this is clearly not a gourmet option, it offers a safe choice for the gluten free diner. One of the blogs I’d managed to read before setting off was this by itsgottobeglutenfree. On approaching the counter and asking if they had gluten free buns I received the same response, as if to say “durr, of course we do, you fool” In fact this was repeated everywhere else we went, eating gluten free in Norway just seems so ordinary.

Gluten free Mcdonalds

Norway is not cheap to eat out in so this provided both a quick and inexpensive lunch option and the kids tried their first Happy Meal. (Hoping that is a memory they don’t keep reminding me of!).

Egon

We ate at this Norwegian chain several times, mainly due to it being the only place in town being open on New Year’s Eve (odd). The decor was a bit TGI Fridays-esque but it had plenty of gluten free options including this pizza.

Egon Gluten Free Pizza

And importantly when a glass of average quality wine costs well over a tenner, gluten free beer!

After too much McD’s and pizza, I could only face a Cobb salad. Complete with gluten free bread, simply switched from regular bread and not attracting an additional charge. That’s a gluten free beer to the left too.

Cobb Salad

Dolly Dimple’s

Dolly Dimple’s are a chain of pizza restaurants found all over Norway. They offer regular and gluten free pizzas. One interesting service from Dolly’s is that they can deliver to your hotel, instead of room service. In our case, they came right to our hotel door complete with card reader for the payment.

The menu online was in Norwegian but did have pictures and quick use of a translation app I figured out what the toppings were.

Dolly Dimples

I choose ham and mushroom with extra tomato slices. (That’s another gluten free beer on the table).

GF pizza

I enjoyed this pizza but the base is not like a regular Italian pizza base. The texture is more springy and thicker. If you’ve ever tried a McDonald’s gluten free burger bun in Scandinavia, it’s a bit like that. Not unpleasant, just different. I don’t have a problem with codex wheat starch but I know some Coeliacs do. Many of the Scandinavian gluten free goods (e.g., Fria) contain it, so if this is an issue for you, then you might want to check.

Bolgen & Moi, Norwegian Petroleum museum, Stavanger

Enjoyed lunch here of this salmon salaad with a great view of Stavanger’s harbour from the pier of the oil museum. Normally offers gluten free bread but the bakery was closed over New Year so none available on my visit.

Salad Petroleum Museum

Where Will 2016 Take Me?

It’s that time of the year when I look back at the year that was and make new resolutions for the year to come. Maybe it’s because my birthday is in January but I always feel like I’m turning a new page as the new year begins.

I wrote last year about the places on my 2015 travel wish list. But inevitably life didn’t go to plan. My highlights of last year’s travel were a week in Snowdonia in March when it didn’t rain (shocker!), a few days in Paris when I ran around the city between work meetings in search of gluten free patisserie. In August we enjoyed a staycation with family around the UK and I loved visiting the newly reopened Dreamland in Margate (aka Bem Bom Brothers of my youth). We also spent a couple of weeks in the Dordogne where we rented a villa. We drove down to south-west France and I was so happy with how well the twins coped on days with long drives. Turns out small kids can be more adaptable than they’re given credit for…

So where am I going in 2016?

The literal answer:

We returned yesterday from a New Year’s trip to Stavanger, Norway.

Mr D and I have both had a very long standing resolution to be away somewhere for New Year’s Eve. Warm NYE destinations have included watching the fireworks in Sydney, Copacabana beach in Rio and drinking lovely wine in Margaret River, Australia. However, like this year, most previous destinations have been chilly ones including Moscow, Berlin, New York, Yllas, Stockholm, Oslo as we’ve then taken longer Southern Hemisphere holidays in January/February outside the peak travel season. This year we had a minor freak out at the possibility of breaking the tradition so on the evening of 29th December we managed to find both an air miles redemption (x 4) for New Year and a hotel with two interconnecting rooms (which always requires calling the hotel directly). I love exploring a random European city. And who could resist one with both a petroleum museum and a sardine canning museum?!

EDIT: We enjoyed our trip to Stavanger so much we’ve booked another long weekend trip to Norway, this time to Bergen, at the end of January. I love a funicular and Bergen’s looks particularly impressive.

In February thanks to a BA Business Class sale we’re going to Innsbruck. This was a great deal at £150 return. They may be 2 years old but we have to pay almost full fare for the twins. 4 x plane seats in any class of travel do not come cheap.

In late March we’re off to Japan for 2 weeks. I’ve been to Japan before but I’m literally bursting with excitement. My sister now lives in Tokyo and I can’t wait to see where she hangs out and enjoy a snap shot of her life.

If you have any child friendly tips for Tokyo / Japan please do leave a comment below. Alternatively, do let me know what your favourite karaoke song is. But if it’s the karaoke female duet classic “I know Him So Well”, you’re out of luck as she’s yet to find a karaoke place with that on the play list. Keep looking, R…

In the summer we’re trying to redeem a heap of Virgin Flying Club Miles before they cut any further routes (still dreaming of the trip to Vancouver/Seattle from last year’s list). We’ve been looking into flights to the US but the VA miles don’t appear to offer as good value as our BA miles. More investigation is required on the best ways of optimising the benefit of these VA miles.

The figurative answer:

Whilst I’d love to post here regularly, my resolution is not to over commit on anything. I love writing this blog and all the opportunities it has given me. But the truth is, there’s just so little time between a full on job, studying for a professional qualification (what was I thinking?!) looking after energetic toddler twins and all the other hum drum things one has to do to keep life going.

Plus blogging has new challenges these days. I was reminded of this over Christmas whilst enjoying lunch out. A lovely lamb shank, nestling on potato mash, just as I like it not too buttery with some butternut squash. They’d even made me some gluten free gravy. Delicious. I’ll just take a quick snap and Instagram this, I thought.

IMG_4238 [64092]

And then immediately this happened.

little hands

A small hand reached out in search of more mash, having scoffed all of her own.

There’s no time these days to get the ‘perfect’ shot, it’s an achievement just to get a photo! I’m also not too keen on putting photos of the twins on here. I really mean no offence to anyone who does post photos of their kids, by the way. It’s just I’ve mostly avoided posting photos of myself on here (although there are a couple), so it doesn’t seem quite right to start posting photos of my kids apart from random hand / back of head shots.

I also need to think where I’m going with this blog. I first started writing it nearly 6 years ago when I travelled at least once a month and was regularly searching for safe gluten free places to eat while I was abroad. Since then so much has changed. I’ve been diagnosed with a nut allergy and of course I now travel with two little travel monkeys. I know I don’t want this to become a mummy blog but clearly travelling with kids/twins is now a huge part of my travel/travel planning in the same way sharing my gluten free finds was when I first started writing this blog.

However, even if I’m not posting on here that regularly (who knows, I might be) then you can find me actively on social media:

Twitter ID: GlutenFreeMrsD

Instagram ID: GlutenFreeMrsD

I can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Bloglovin

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and adventure filled 2016 wherever in the world life takes you!

Out with the old, in with the new…

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll notice it’s had a refresh, something I’ve been meaning to do for some time.

I’ve been using a Headway theme which I’d bought when I first started the blog. It has been great and super easy to customise. However, around the time the twins were born Headway did a major update. By the time I emerged from my sleep deprived state to even consider looking at the blog I’d ended up too many versions behind and it needed some serious attention under the hood as there was no automated pathway to upgrade to the current version.

Every time I’ve looked at the blog in recent months I’ve just sighed at the need to update it. Then swiftly closed the laptop down and moved on to something less taxing. But in the end, updating the blog turned out to be a task which took less than the twins’ nap time – the new indicator for me of a straightforward task.

Lesson learned: Keep the blog theme simple and stick to WordPress.

In making the updates, I’ve properly linked my social media accounts to the blog. I discovered last year I’d set up an Instagram account back in 2012 but had forgotten all about it – preferring the interaction on Twitter instead – but I’m now very much enjoying IG. I’m keen to discover interesting new Instagram accounts to follow so please do share with me any you enjoy.

If you don’t already follow me on social media, feel free to connect via the following links:

Twitter ID: GlutenFreeMrsD

Instagram ID: GlutenFreeMrsD

I can also be found occasionally on Facebook, Google+, somewhat fleetingly on Pinterest and my blog is on Bloglovin.

And if you have any feedback on the blog refresh, please do leave a comment below…

Gluten Free Eating Tips: France

In recent years Paris has seen the blossoming of many wonderful gluten free restaurants (blog posts from my recent trip here). France used to have a reputation for being difficult for vegetarians with its meat based meals and as being equally hard for coeliacs with its croissants, wonderful patisserie and general lack of understanding on why anyone would not want to each such delicious food items.

So in advance of our trip to south west France, I wondered whether Paris’ new interest in catering to those with allergies / intolerances would have filtered down to the rest of France. In short, the answer was a big non.

It wasn’t impossible to eat out, and in fact we ate out somewhere different every day during our holiday, but it was a challenge. And luckily for my recently returned anaemia, it involved a lot of red meat. We may bemoan our chain restaurants in the UK but at least they can be relied upon to have standard procedures, staff training and information readily available on allergens. France is a country of (mainly) small independent restaurants and they simply do not have the same information as you might be used to back in the UK/US. It is possible to eat out you need to be prepared!

Here’s a few observations and tips if you’re planning to visit France:

Be wary of non specified items the menu: At each meal, the dish described on the menu was not exactly as was to be served. Where there was a description on the menu, it turned out be more of a general idea than a full list of component parts. Ingredients (sometimes of the wheaty variety such as croutons or nuts sprinkled on salads) were simply not listed on the menu meaning a high potential for unexpected passengers in your meal. On one occasion I was served a steak with a <surprise> great mound of pasta, which I promptly had to send back to the kitchen.

  • You will need to ask the waiter to describe every item in the dish to avoid potential allergens from being in your meal
  • I’ve written previously on eating gluten free in France, you might find some of these tips helpful
  • Check on cross contamination with chips/fries as you would at home. I usually scan the menu first to see if there are any other breaded items listed which may be cooked in with the chips and then ask
Look, no meat!
Look, no meat!

(Lack of) allergy labelling: During 10 days in France I didn’t see even one single allergen noted on a menu. Neither did I see a note on any menu or any sign displayed in any restaurant asking diners to speak to staff about allergens in the their dishes. I thought the EU allergen labelling rules applied Europe wide, but seemingly not in the part of France I was visiting.

  • Don’t expect menus or restaurants to display/have readily available the level of allergen information we are used to having in the UK. Use translation cards to explain your dietary needs or learn the words in French for the allergens

Vegetarians: Generally I found very little choice for gluten free vegetarians on menus. And if your child is a gluten free vegetarian, they will have very few/no options for eating out. Omelettes were featured regularly on many menus which is at least one possibility. We even discovered l’Omelettaria in Bergerac where there were a number of veggie options and this was the only place I saw which had a child’s vegetarian meal offered (so long as they like eggs, that is!).

  • Explore the fabulous local weekly markets and pick up beautiful fruit and vegetables. Make up for limited choice to eat out in restaurants by having wonderful picnics in a picturesque spot instead

Service stations: We drove from London down to the south west of France so stopped a number of times, mainly thanks to two small voices in the back of the car screaming “Daddy, park car! Get out! Walk!” Whilst I’m thrilled at how they’re turning into small people able to communicate what they want, singing 62 verses of Old Macdonald’s Farm in one go deserves a break.

Service stations in France are located at regular intervals along roads. Aire stations (which under French law must be no further than 20kms apart) range from those with petrol stations, restaurants and small convenience shops to those which are little more than a clearing alongside the road with a picnic table (and no toilet).

The only pre packaged item I found to eat in any Aire station with a shop/restaurant we stopped at was this tuna salad – complete with test tube of oil/balsamic. It also contained a chocolate chip cookie but both the cookie and the salad were in separate sealed packaging so OK. Otherwise in some service stations there were packs of cheese and ham – but they weren’t sold in all service station shops.

  • If you can, do what the French do and pack a picnic and find a nice roadside Aire station to stop at. Sadly my food organisational / time management skills do not extend this far so I took some emergency snacks in case there was nothing gluten free.

Kids meals: While I am not a particular fan of kids meals, in France many of the dishes from the regular menu were not really suitable for my just-turned 2 year olds. The default kids meal everywhere involved steak haché (basically a good quality hamburger but no bun) and frites. This should be gluten free as it’s essentially just chopped steak with seasoning. Some places had a poached fish fillet and other chicken nuggets (not gluten free) but generally there was little choice. However, as above, I discovered that what was listed on the menu was often not as provided. Mostly the menus stated dessert was ‘Un glace’ – an ice cream. What, in fact, the restaurants offered under the auspices of un glace varied from delicious homemade ice cream to a fluorescent coloured ice pop in a frozen plastic tube to a bowl of Smarties.

  • If you want to avoid disappointing the kids, make sure you ask at the outset what’s on offer (or simply pay the extra to order what they want!)

In general I found it was possible to eat out gluten free in France but I ate a LOT of steak and confit de canard. I speak French quite well but in any case I always travel with the language cards as a backup.

Have you travelled to France recently as a gluten free diner? How did you find it? Perhaps you live in France? I would love to hear your feedback on gluten free dining in France.

Resources for gluten free restaurant dining:

Gluten Free Roads – Very useful app but didn’t have many places listed near where I was in France

Sortir Sans Gluten – Searchable for restaurants (in French but easy to navigate)

French Coeliac Society – their guide (in English) to eating gluten free in France. Contains some phrases to help explain your dietary needs

Manger Sans Gluten – searchable map for gluten free shops and restaurants (also in French but super easy to navigate)