Went – Ate – Loved: July 2017

Went
…not very far. July presented us with lots of reasons to stay in London; my sister was back in the UK for a holiday, the twins’ birthday & their parties, the completion of a work project for me, not to mention the hiking of flight prices as the schools close from early July for the summer holidays. So instead we hung out closer to home.

A real highlight of the month for me was visiting The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew for a picnic. Each time I visit (which is no more than once a year) I wonder how I cannot visit this absolute gem (and one of London’s 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites) more often. The displays are stunning, I love the tropical hot houses and all the lily pads in particular….

Kew Gardens lily pad

…..they even have several types of gluten free cake labelled and stored both separately and covered.

Gluten free cake Kew Gardens

I was glad to see the Hive was back this year. The Hive is a multi sensory structure mimicking the real bee activity in a bee hive at Kew and I find it absolutely mesmerising.The Hive

Also joining us for a picnic in Kew Gardens was a friend of my sister and her young son. He absolutely howled when we left, he didn’t want to leave the noise of the bees, loved it.

If you’re planning a trip to London, do consider adding Kew to your agenda.

Kew Gardens

Ate
This month I finally had dinner at Brindisa (I visited their Shoreditch restaurant).

I was impressed they had such attention to detail on allergies. However, this meant that a surprisingly large number of dishes were off limits, including patatas bravas. (WHAT!). The waiter explained they were cooked in pans previously used for gluten containing food and therefore a cross contamination risk. Shame.

It did mean I was able to choose this spectacular looking Spanish meat selection to share with my friends….

Gluten free Brindisa

Since there were no gluten free and nut free dessert options…well….cheese selection to share. At least cheese is always gluten free! The goats cheese, bottom left, in this selection was absolutely stellar. Gluten free Brindisa

I enjoyed my meal at Brindisa (limited choices and no patatas bravas aside) but I was a bit miffed that after we’d finished our tapas and moved on to cheese, I was asked at that point if I’d like some gluten free bread. It would’ve been better if I’d been asked earlier as I’d had a prawn dish I’d like to have mopped up a few juices with, as my gluten eating friends had with heir gluten-y bread.

At Kew we had a fantastic picnic from all the fabulous gluten free offerings at M&S. I love how each time I go, I discover something new like these gluten free “Dinky Posh Dogs”.

Picnic at Kew Gardens

These aren’t just dinky cocktail sausages, they’re posh gluten free cocktail sausages…

Having my sister home also meant I had an excuse for lunches at Pho, Leon, Nando’s…… and this great gluten free pizza at the consistently excellent Pizza Express.

Gluten free pizza at Pizza Express

Also enjoyed this month were brunches at my local brunch joint, Brother Marcus.

Gluten free Brother Marcus Balham

However, perhaps my top ‘Ate’ pick for July is this epic birthday cake made for the twins’ birthday by the lovely DeeLight Bakery in Balham. I’d given fairly vague instructions to Dee (my son likes jungle animals, my daughter is in to rainbows at the moment, the cake had to be plain Victoria sponge, buttercream icing and no jam) so when I opened the box on collection, I nearly burst in to tears.

Gluten free birthday cake DeeLight

After the party, one of the parents emailed me asking where I had got the cake from it tasted delicious, she said, just like she remembered the cakes of her childhood tasting. Can there be a better compliment for a gluten free and nut free cake?

Loved
I’ve loved having a house full of people this month. At times I’ve lost track of the comings and goings of the various family and friends who’ve been staying with us but – endless laundry aside – it’s been fun.

Blog posts I’ve loved reading this month:
If you’re planning to go to Madrid (and I’d love to go back) you might enjoy reading this review of Da Nicola. Both the hotel we stayed in and a random coeliac I met in the Sana Locura bakery (I love it when that happens!) recommended eating here.

This is a great comparative review of restaurants in London and the UK. Worth bookmarking if you’re planning on a trip to the UK or would like to explore more restaurants here.

I really enjoyed reading this commentary piece on the Nima sensor. I see this used a lot by our friends across the pond but I’m not aware of anyone who lives (rather than visiting) in the UK. If you could use it, would you?

Another US based blog, this time sharing experiences of London. I really enjoy reading what visitors to my home city make of the gluten free offerings here. I also enjoyed this post because the family had a mixed experience; they didn’t love every meal they ate. How refreshing to read an honest account of restaurant dining.

Went – Ate – Loved: June 2017

Went
To Milan in early June along with Mr D’s parents.

Heathrow to Milan

The main purpose of our trip was to visit the grave of my mother in law’s grandfather who is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in a small town between Genoa and Milan. He had died in the First World War whilst assisting the supply route which ran from the port of Genoa up along the railway line, going north up to the front line in France.

We have visited the grave once before, about 5 years ago. On the previous trip we stayed in Genoa, a city often overlooked by tourists but which I really enjoyed visiting.

Milan cathedral

This time we decided to base ourselves in Milan as the train connections were good from there and we could also visit Lake Como on the same trip.

Mr D and I also enjoyed a great day out this month watching the tennis at Queen’s. We went last year and had a brilliant time so bought tickets again this year fully expecting Andy Murray plus a raft of other high ranking players to be in the tournament. Except they weren’t by the time attended on quarter finals day.

I’ve been to Wimbledon on finals day and, whilst it’s a really sporting bucket list ticket, I much prefer Queen’s. It’s smaller, you can get closer to the action and the people watching opportunities are amazing. Nowhere else would you see upper-middle class ladies of a certain age wandering around barefoot carrying bottles of wine in plastic carriers filled with ice cubes to keep cool between the bar and their chums. Any attempt (uninentential or otherwise) at queue jumping seems to lead to profuse apologies. Which is how Mr D and I found ourselves being bought glasses of Pimms by a chap who inadvertently queue jumped us as he bought a magnum of champagne (price – £160!). We didn’t care in the slightest, but he did and he couldn’t apologise enough. Cheers!

Milan cathedral

Ate
One of the best gluten free pizzas I’ve ever enjoyed was in Milan, at the Be Bop Cafe. On this trip this restaurant was the one place I wanted to return for a meal at. Yet somehow it just didn’t happen. And despite me having been to The Be Bop on three separate previous trips to this great city, the blog post has been languishing in my blog’s drafts folder for a very long time. If you find yourself in Milan and looking for gluten free pizza, head to the Be Bop, it’s a cracker.

It would not, however, be right to visit Italy without enjoying at least one gluten free pizza. I visited two restaurants (one in Bellagio, the other in Monza) where enjoyed a great gluten free meal and which will be up on the blog soon.Gluten free pizza Lake Como

After a very hot and long journey to Bellagio, this was much appreciated.

Gluten free beer Italy

At Queen’s there were fairly slim pickings on the gluten free front (is Djokovic still gluten free?). And what gluten free options did exist were really expensive.

This. £15.

Gluten free Queen's tennis London

This Eton Mess. £6. Note the scale with my sunglasses.

Gluten free Queen's tennis London

You can, however, happily take a picnic in.

Loved

I absolutely loved our trip to Lake Como. I’ve been a few times before, including on honeymoon, and I just love it here. The green hills dipping down in to the dark blue waters of the lake, the gorgeous flowers everywhere, the boats, the people, the real glamour of it all. The weekend we visited was an Italian holiday. And even queueing for an hour in 30C+sunshine with more crowds than I’ve ever seen up there  couldn’t dip my enthusiasm. I just love it.

Travelling with young children is an amazing experience but there are definitely downsides. I try not to remember the tired/hungry meltdowns and focus on the special bits, like their utter excitement at being able to choose from a selection of colourful ice cream:

Gelato in Milan

I really think the twingos love Italy as much as I do even if one is now constantly asking to go to Finland and the other talks non stop about Brazil, places neither has been toBut then what kid wouldn’t love days filled with sunshine, pizza, pasta and gelato.

Blog posts I’ve loved this month

Time for reading blog posts has been more or less non-existent this month. I’ve been well and truly ensconced in another intense project at work – thankfully only a couple of weeks to go – and all the spare time I’ve had has been basically spent on the bare essentials of running a busy life. I did manage to read this post on the Languedoc which is timely since we are spending part of our summer holiday near to here. I say part because only one week of a nearly 3 week holiday in August it is booked. I’ve been too busy to book the rest of it. Am I being optimistic that this means we’ll find a last minute bargain?!

Spring in the Languedoc vineyards, France

 

Went – Ate – Loved: May 2017

Went
To Madrid. The weekend trip we’d previously postponed finally happened and we flew on the new BA 767 service there and back. Thanks to an air miles redemption, we flew in a great deal of comfort in the long haul flat beds for little cost. The meal served on the return flight was quite possibly the prettiest I’ve ever seen for a gluten free meal with its edible flowers! I do, however, suspect I was served only part of the meal.

gluten free meal british airways club europe

Sadly our trusty (I’m calling it that now) red double buggy took a direct hit from something large or heavy on the flight to Madrid and one of the metal arms was completely snapped.

The boneshaker of a contraption has been all over the world (Mr D’s teeth are still chattering from pushing it over the cobblestones in Gothenburg) but it was finally broken by Madrid.

All credit to the Iberia ground staff at Madrid airport who started the damage claim and BA’s UK agent who arranged for a replacement to be delivered to our house 3 days later. However, it did mean we were without a buggy in Madrid and the kids had been up since 3.30am to get to the airport (I had been expecting them to have a siesta in the buggy while we found a bar to pass an hour in)….luckily our hotel had a spare single buggy to lend us. But we cracked the next day as we passed an El Corte Ingles and bought another spare single for the princely sum of €59! Bargain. With both kids now in single buggies we were able to do an extra hour of walking at a speedy pace – Mr D & I like to walk.

While we were in Madrid we went to the Zoo. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about zoos. The Zoo in Madrid has every type of animal you could ever want to see (I saw pandas for the first time!) and for my animal mad children, it was heaven. But the cramped conditions of some of the enclosures made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I managed to push this out of my head until, just as we were leaving, we came to the kangaroos. My son, wise beyond his 3 years, asked me “Why are the kangaroos in a cage mummy? They live in Australia”. Well, quite.

May also saw the first trip to the ballet with the twingos to see the Northern Ballet’s production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears at Sadler’s Wells. They (both) do ballet classes at their nursery and love it. I can remember as a child how spine-tingly excited I’d get when I was taken to the Royal Opera House to watch the ballet, usually at Christmas, and I am really looking forward to be able to take them – but they need to be 5 to go to ROH.

Ate

A real highlight for me on the Madrid trip was that I managed to visit not just one, but two gluten free bakeries in Madrid.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

You can read my review here of the Sana Locura 100% gluten free bakery.

We also stumbled across Celicioso, another 100% gluten free bakery in Madrid.

Since I was in Madrid for a weekend I wouldn’t claim to write the ultimate guide to gluten free Madrid or some such (how is that possible after only a few days in a place?) so I’ve added a couple of links in the post to people who know far more than me about gluten free Madrid.

Loved

I’ve loved exploring a bit more of London this month. On the first May Bank Holiday we did one of my favourite trips for tourists; Tube from where we live in SW London to Greenwich, the Emirates Air Line cable car across the Thames, DLR to Canary Wharf (front seat of the train, naturally!) and then picked up a Thames Clipper to Waterloo from where we took the overland train home. If you’re planning a trip to London, all these parts of the journey were taken on public transport, using an Oyster card. You don’t need to pay to go on expensive sightseeing tours when you come to London!

A super day out exploring the city we live in was topped by a lunch at Wagamama where I was taken care of extremely well and the kids loved their meals. I’ve not been to Wagamama for a number of years as I’d been ill several times after eating there. They’ve recently changed their processes and the manager is now in charge of taking orders from diners with allergies.

The gluten free menu at Wagamama. Note there are as many desserts on this menu as starters and mains combined…

On this, and a subsequent visit to Wagamama on a day out up to Hampstead Heath / Regent’s Park (where once again the new processes were in place), we all ate happily at Wagamama and there were no after effects for me. Hurrah!

Blog posts I’ve loved reading this month 

I think May has been a bumper month for interesting and well written blog posts. It’s been a real struggle not to list all the posts I’ve bookmarked this month. However, if I were to pick the best of the best, it would be this post by Kelly on practical travel tips for Moscow. You can read a further post on the Novodovichy monastery here. Both posts also contain some great photographs of one of my favourite cities.

I also loved this post by Amy on gluten free dining options in Maui. I didn’t visit Maui on our trip to Hawaii but having read this, I would now love to.

I’ve been pondering a return to Vienna for a while (but perhaps in summer next time!) and this post by The Sightseeing Coeliac has some great options for gluten free meals in Vienna.

Finally this post on the tricks and fakery of Instagram. Whilst I do really enjoy Instagram and get a lot of tips and info from it, I definitely see plenty of accounts – sometimes I’m surprised at who – who are clearly buying followers or comments. I just think it’s a bit sad.

Gluten Free Madrid: Sana Locura Bakery & Other Gluten Free Tips

Ever since the mini Ds were born my opportunities for scoping out gluten free finds have been mostly fleeting moments snatched between running an errand or my day job. The days of wandering around on weekend city breaks seeking out thee best local gluten free finds have been replaced with the demands of 2 three year olds who mostly want to find the nearest playground.

So when I realised that I’d booked a hotel in Madrid on the same street as a 100% gluten free bakery (unintentionally, honest!), I was feeling hopeful I’d get to take a look. As it turned out, I got to visit not just one, but two gluten free bakeries during our trip to Madrid…

The Sana Locura 100% gluten free bakery is located on Calle del Gral Oraá, 49, 28006 Madrid. Note this is not in the centre of Madrid. However if you’re staying in the upmarket Salamanca district, you can easily walk to it.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

Sana Locura has a number of tables so you can eat in or take out as we did.

We visited in the late afternoon and I was impressed to see many items available.

This is a 100% gluten free bakery. Their website says 95% of their items are also lactose free.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

Just look at the patisserie above, so beautiful.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

There were many celebration cakes available to buy.

And this epic shoe cake, how fun!

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

The staff member I spoke to didn’t speak any English and my Spanish is a little limited. I asked which items contained nuts and many of the cakes, patisserie did. However, I suspect this was lost a bit in translation but I couldn’t risk it so I stuck to items which did not contain nuts.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

A baguette which was the best I’ve ever had fresh, so light yet crispy on the outside. Sadly they’d run out of “beauty bread”.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

A croissant. As far as I know no gluten free bakery in Paris is doing a freshly baked gluten free croissants so this was a major treat. It was denser than a regular croissant but nonetheless was filled with layers just as you’d expect. It was really very good. And if return to Sana Locura just to buy these alone.

I also bought a doughnut. Some “squiggle biscuits” for my daughter (which she talked about all weekend) and Mr D had a flaky tart with cherry on top which he pronounced as excellent.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

Opening hours: Please make sure you check the website here. At the time of posting this blog, the bakery closes for a couple of hours in the afternoon and are not open on Mondays
Cost: €6 (yes six Euros!) for all of the above.
Would I come back? Absolutely. There were plenty of tables to eat in. However, it would be a great place to visit in the morning to pick up a picnic for the day ahead.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

More tips for gluten free Madrid:

  • Celicioso has a 100% gluten free bakeries in Madrid. I bought some alfajores (a shortbread like biscuit) filled with dulce de leche here and they were so good! Again there was plenty of seating here if you wanted to eat in.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

  • The Bagaray restaurant in Madrid Zoo offers a gluten free menu (I didn’t eat here)

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

  • We stayed at the Barcelo Emperatriz which is a short walk from the Sana Locura bakery. This 5 star hotel was wonderful for gluten free food, both in the breakfast and in the evening for dinner. The bar also stocked gluten free beer. You can see some images on my Instagram page.
  • Around the corner (literally) from our hotel was the fantastic Jose Luis where we enjoyed delicious pinchos. The anchovies here were the juiciest and fullest flavour I’ve ever eaten and frankly I’d return for their black truffle tortilla alone. This is not a gluten free restaurant but many of the Spanish pinchos plates are naturally gluten free and the staff were able to explain what I could eat.

Gluten free Jose Luis

  • A really good resource for finding gluten free restaurants in Madrid is the Celiaquitos blog.

PIN FOR LATER

Gluten free bakery Madrid

Went – Ate – Loved: April 2017

Went
….in to hospital to have all 4 of my wisdom teeth taken out under general anaesthetic. The recovery has been long, slow, painful and complicated. On the upside the medications I was put on to control the pain knocked me out and I spent several days sleeping, something I haven’t done for quite some time!

Gluten free hospital meal

In fact this wasn’t the only hospital trip of the month. Early in April my daughter had a severe allergic reaction to substance unknown. She has no known allergies and this has never happened to her before. We’d initially thought it was a nettle sting as she’d been playing over on the Common that afternoon and initially the rash was small so I’d picked up some anti histamine on the way home. However, by the time I got home from work it appeared the reaction was getting worse; her whole body was covered in hives and her lips and tongue were swelling. I called 111 for advice on whether to give the anti histamine immediately or seek further medical assistance. but it was decided an ambulance would be sent for her. The paramedics gave the anti histamine which worked a treat and after a few hours in A&E we were discharged with instructions to take her to the hospital allergy clinic.

We were very lucky to get an appointment the following week with an excellent paediatric allergy consultant for further investigation. It was such a mystery as she hadn’t eaten anything new or different that day.

The consultant had told us before performing her skin prick tests that he suspected it was not food / pollen / dust etc related. He was right – they all came back negative. What a relief!

So what caused it? The consultant explained that sometimes the body can have an immune response to a virus. She’d had the norovirus the previous week so it would seem that was the cause.

I had no idea before this episode that this could even happen or result in such a severe allergic reaction. Every medical professional who saw her that night had thought it was food allergy related.

Another reminder to always take qualified medical advice if you suspect your child or you have an allergy. And don’t remove anything from their/your diet unless a medical professional advises you to do this and supervises the progress.

By the end of the month my itchy feet had contracted a bad case of cabin fever. This led to one of the most random travel days I’ve had in a while when I had to cancel not one, but two flights, within the space of an hour. The first flight had been for 3 nights in Madrid which I’d booked the previous week using air miles. Having checked the weather forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend, it turned out that the rain in Spain falls mainly in Madrid. Not fancying the prospect of finding 3 days of activities in Madrid which would see the twingos spend most of it either inside or in a buggy, under a rain cover, we were able to cancel the flights for minimal cost. The hotel and Heathrow parking costs were also fully refundable – it pays sometimes to take the refundable option.

This left us with no plans for the Bank holiday. Another Avios redemption search found flights to Hamburg, a city I’ve never visited but have always been interested to explore. Mr D was in charge of booking the flights. When I saw they were booked and in my BA app I noticed he’d accidentally booked the return for the same day as the outward flight. Cue phone call number two to BA! Unfortunately there was no availability on the return date we wanted from Hamburg so these flights were also cancelled and Hamburg will have to wait…

Ate
A lot of soup and frozen yoghurt. And more than a few choc ices.

Loved
I don’t know if this is true for all parents but one of the first things parents of very young twins ask each when they first meet is when exactly will things get easier? When you’re exhausted to a level you never knew could possibly exist, it’s important to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Sometime? Maybe? Please?

Well, April 2017 when the twins were 3 years and 9 months old seems to be a breakthrough. Mr D managed to read his subscription of the Economist sitting in the garden in the sunshine during the week it was mailed to him. I replied to emails (good), did a lot of internet shopping (less good) and searched for weekend break destinations (exciting) all in daylight hours! The way things are going, I may actually buy myself a magazine and read it while the kids play. I’d better not push my luck by attempting to read a whole book just yet…

When having twins pays off - and girl power

              When having twins pays off

April was also primary school decision day. This has been a major stress in our lives since we bought our house and discovered that, thanks to the tiny school catchment areas where we live, we had been outside of catchment for any of the local state schools in that year. So we were thrilled when the kids received offers to our first choice school.  Even if I think at 4 years & 5 weeks old when they start in Reception that it’s too young, at least they’re going to a school we like.

Since my recovery took a while from the anaesthetic, I managed to keep up with blog posts. I enjoyed these posts in April in particular:

I am always more than a little bit in awe of both Carly’s photography skills and her baking ability. I loved this post in which she’s shared her best free from baking recipes:

My go-to free from recipes for cakes & biscuits

I love this post on eating gluten free in Paris by Lisa who lives in Paris and shares her gluten free recipes as well as her sans gluten finds in France.

We’re off to Milan in June and this trip will be with Mr D’s parents. I’ve been to Milan a number of times before but this post is a good reminder on what to see and more specifically eat and drink in Milan!

And finally, a post which really made me think. Rachel has been documenting her very recent emigration to Australia. Having lived abroad myself (in Russia) I found this post on expat stories shared by Rachel’s friends fascinating and I agreed with so many of the points raised, especially the reverse culture shock I experienced when I came back to live in London.