Monthly Archives: September 2011

Wallaby Superbar: Gluten Free and Wheat Free

On a recent gluten free raid of the new Planet Organic which has opened near my office in the City, I came across the Wallaby Superbars.

These gluten free bars are made with no artificial colours, flavours and no preservatives. They hail from Australia, just outside Byron Bay. This particular fact is what seduced me into purchasing this bar. I really love Byron Bay: It’s where I first managed to stand up on a surf board and remembering the feeling of catching that great wave with me grinning like a loony as I surfed across Watego’s Bay still gives me a happy feeling.

I don’t normally choose yoghurt coated cereal bars because they seem a bit too sickly sweet to me. Unfortunately these were the only ones Planet Organic had in stock that day. Fuelled with thoughts of the girl on the big, shiny blue longboard surfing in the bay, I really, really wanted one. So I settled on the Yoghurty, Cranberry, Fruit & Nut bar.

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Good to know that no wallabies were harmed in the making of this product:

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Having bought the bar, I then promptly forgot about it! On the way back from our recent holiday in France, I was digging around in my handbag for a snack and found it as we waited to board the Eurotunnel.

When I opened the bar, I was happy to see the yoghurt was just on top of the bar in a jaunty diagonal swoosh rather than totally covering it. I guess I could’ve picked it off quite easily. But I didn’t.

So how did it taste? My first impression was that it was dense. Really thick with rice, cranberries, cashews, currants and pumpkin seeds…

43BF469B 3F33 4EA0 93D2 58AC30855F477 Wallaby Superbar: Gluten Free and Wheat FreeI think this bar would be great on a long hike or as an emergency breakfast or lunch replacement. But it’s definitely too much for a between meal snack.

In Australia calorie counts are usually listed on products in kilojoules rather than the calorie values we’re used to in the UK. So I wasn’t too freaked when I saw the energy count as 867KJ. This equates to just over 200 calories which is less than I would’ve thought considering how filling the bar was.

I’m glad I found the Wallaby bars and will buy one of these again. This time next week I’m doing a 20 mile overnight hike in London to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust. I’ve been assured I will be safely catered for but just in case I’m not, these bars should keep me going the distance.

7 Fun Things To Do in Tirana, Albania

You’re in Tirana. Now what? Here’s my list of 7 fun things to do on a weekend in Tirana:

1) Hire a “Boris Bike”. However, nerves of steel will be required to negotiate Tirana’s roads!:

IMG 6706 300x225 7 Fun Things To Do in Tirana, Albania

2) Shop for provisions at Tirana’s Central Food Market. Beautifully displayed fruits and vegetables, olives, hazelnuts:

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3) Visit Tirana’s National Art Gallery (located at Bulevardi Dëshmorët e Kombit, Tirana). I absolutely love socialist realist paintings so to find a gallery with such an enormous selection was a genuine treat for me:

IMG 6731 300x225 7 Fun Things To Do in Tirana, Albania

3) Check out the discarded Communist statues in the garden of the National Art Gallery. Stalin appears to have been hula hooped by a bicycle inner tube:

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4) Visit the Pyramid, the former museum to Enver Hoxha. This is what it looks like on a sunny day…

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5) Enjoy a sundowner cocktail in the revolving restaurant at the Sky Bar (located at Rr Dëshmorët e 4 Shkurtit, Tirana). This is a great place to come at the start of your trip. Enjoy a drink and sit back as the revolution of the bar gives you an introduction and orientation to Tirana.

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6) Wander the very trendy Blloku where there are lots of bars and restaurants to try. The Blloku is a neighbourhood of large villas which was off limits until 1991 to all Albanians except party apparatchiki. Make like a local and sip a coffee in one of the many bars with tables set outside.

7) Take a walk around the surprisingly beautiful 230 hectare Big Park of Tirana (Parku i Madh). We came across an imppecably kept Commonwealth war grave in the middle of this park.

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Although Tirana was a very random weekend break, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The city completely exceeded my expectations and I loved the 1990s Moscow frontier vibe it had. I also felt extremely safe walking around, even late at night.

Come and visit before anyone else you know does.

Gluten Free Mrs D Goes to…Tirana, Albania

Albania. Perhaps not your average destination for a weekend break, I guess, but Mr D and I found ourselves with a spare long weekend and nowhere to go. Having checked our frequent flyer accounts we discovered the closest available weekend option was Tirana. Over the years we’re lucky enough to have travelled to almost everywhere within a do-able in a weekend 3 hour flight of London but Tirana was one of the few places we’d not visited.

IMG 6730 221x300 Gluten Free Mrs D Goes to...Tirana, Albania

When I floated the idea of a random weekend in Albania, Mr D was rather lukewarm on the idea. Why would we want to go there, he asked? I could sort of see his point. There is a view of Albania that is was a poor country, full of dodgy con men, littered with buildings constructed in a 1970s Communist brutalist style and with roads which are barely passable unless you’re driving a horse and cart.

How wrong can you be?

We realised as soon as we arrived at Tirana’s very modern airport that our preconceptions were very wide of the mark.

Albania1 300x225 Gluten Free Mrs D Goes to...Tirana, Albania

We’d arranged for our hotel to send a car to take us to pick us up from the airport. As we stepped outside the airport we were greeted with rows of flashy cars. What no horse and cart?

Our driver (who’d lived in the US for many years) gave us a brilliant introduction to Albania and its history in the car journey into central Tirana. As I looked out the window of the car another two of my myths on the country were shattered. The roads were good quality and on top of that, the roads were not full of horse and carts. They were in fact crammed full of Porsche Cayennes, BMW X5s and apart from those every other car was a Mercedes. And then a further surprise…many of the cars were carrying UK license plates. Hmmmm……

As we drove into the centre of Tirana our driver explained the history behind the multi coloured buildings which were everwhere. The former mayor of Tirana, who was an artist, had encouraged the residents of the city to paint their buildings in an effort to cheer up the city post-Communist rule. I liked the crazy tutti frutti style very much.

We ate dinner in the Blok area of Tirana. This small grid of streets – previously out of bounds to ordinary Albanians as it housed the villa of former dictator Enver Hoxha and the Communist party apparatchiks – is where most of the city’s nightlife and restaurants is based.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a warm balmy night and everywhere sat the city’s youth knocking back with a beer, smoking and, very much like Albania’s neighbour Greece, drinking a lot of coffee. Stroll around. It’s easy to find a bar you like the look of. I felt completely safe in Tirana at all times.

So how about the food in Tirana? Well, the places we ate in may not win any culinary awards but the food was very tasty and simple. Peppers stuffed with cheese appeared on many menus.

A6EEB8B1 ACB4 4650 9736 5F0F229D3FED5 Gluten Free Mrs D Goes to...Tirana, AlbaniaAnd similar to Turkey and Greece, it was easy to order simple grilled meats.

CC515033 DDCC 4B6B ACBA D09BF2D880DD6 Gluten Free Mrs D Goes to...Tirana, AlbaniaUnfortunately Coeliac Travel don’t offer cards in Albanian which is perhaps not surprising for a country of 3 million. So instead I used an online translation tool before we went to translate the English version of the card into Albanian. When we arrived at the hotel in Tirana, I asked the hotel receptionist to take a look at the Albanian. As you can see, the results of this method were not overly impressive!

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Generally I found most staff in restaurants did speak some English. No-one understood what ‘gluten’ was though. Instead I tried various ways to explain what I could and couldn’t eat using simple words like “allergy” (since the route of this word is used in other languages even if it’s pronounced slightly differently), “no bread, no pasta”, and surprisingly “no farina” (for the same reason as using “allergy”) seemed to work well. I offered the translation card which had been scrawled on by the helpful receptionist to each waiter. In the restaurant where I ate the lamb chops above, the waiter proudly explained he’d got the chef to boil the potatoes and so they would be safe. A little bit of effort on both sides and we got there in the end.

Next post: 7 fun things to do on a weekend in Tirana. Really!