Gluten Free Hotel Stay: Barcelo Valencia, Spain

Writing hotel reviews on this blog is not something that I normally do. Why? Well, in many cases one very good hotel is very much like another very good hotel. Yes there’s usually a USP that sets it apart from its peers. However, in many cases I don’t feel I learn something from bloggers writing reviews of hotels that – for the most part – I couldn’t learn from looking at the hotel’s website.

So that’s exactly why I am writing a review on the Barcelo Valencia.

Because I just didn’t know from the website how suitable this hotel would be for my needs as a traveller with dietary restrictions who is also travelling with small kids.

Location
The Barcelo Valencia is located directly opposite the Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences. You can read all about the scientific and cultural space which is housed within the modernist City of Arts and Sciences here. There’s one busy road to cross but then you’re within the park.

City of Arts and Science Valencia

Following a catastrophic flood in 1957, Valencia’s river Turia was diverted and the old riverbed turned into a park which winds its way through Valencia. We thoroughly enjoyed walking through this park and the kids loved being out of the buggy in a safe, car free green space. They also loved that there seemed to be a playground spaced approximately every 5 minutes….!

Just over the road from the Barcelo Valencia hotel is also a great little playground for kids.

Food
Our usual pattern for food when travelling with the twins has been to have a main meal all together at lunchtime in whichever city / location we’re in. We find it easier to find something suitable for all of us this way. In the evenings, if everyone is tired after a day sightseeing then we get a picnic type tea for the kids to eat in the room. Mr D and I will often order something from room service after the kids have gone to bed. Consequently, I often enquire at hotels for a copy of the room service menu before making the room reservation to check there are gluten free options for me.

On this occasion I contacted Barcelo Valencia before booking. A room service menu was sent to me. Nothing was explicitly noted as gluten free on the menu but since there were fish / meat / veggie options it looked good.

What I did not know until we got there was that they had plenty of gluten free options.

They even had Daura gluten free beer in the restaurant and bar and consequently I could have ordered this on room service. We ate a couple of times in the hotel restaurant. I particularly enjoyed this burger, served with gluten free baguette (!).

I’m not a big hotel breakfast eater and we often choose to stay in an apartment instead of a hotel for this reason alone. However, the breakfast here was really something special.

I’m struggling to remember a time recently where I have stayed in a hotel offering such fresh and excellent quality ingredients. Beautiful fresh fruit, good quality hams and cheeses.

The pungent blue cheese was cut in huge chunks and truly excellent; the chunk in the photo was the smallest piece offered! On the hot plates were bacon, sausages (I didn’t eat them so not sure if they were gluten free), eggs, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, tortilla….the list goes on. Each item was topped up regularly so they never ran out.

For gluten free diners I was given a huge selection of breads, biscuits and muffins when I asked if they had any gluten free items. There were also biscuits on this plate but they had been swiped by the time I took the photo.

Room
We booked a two bedroom suite – there are 2 suites in this hotel. The suite was huge because in addition to the 2 separate bedrooms – each with en-suite bathroom with massive baths – was a (small-sish) lounge and a further, third, guest toilet. All the doors were the sliding variety so the space could be opened up. The only downside was that the windows were quite high up so you couldn’t see out of them unless you stood up. Shame when there was a great view out of the window!

What else to know?
Joining the hotel’s loyalty programme (Barcelo has hotels throughout Spain) provides various incentives including room discounts and/or late checkout. As members of this loyalty scheme, we were received a discount on the room cost, free bottles of water and sweets (which I managed to swiftly swipe) in our room along with a credit towards items bought in the hotel.

There is free wifi throughout the hotel.

There’s also a great looking spa – complete with outdoor pool for the summer months – up on the top floor of the hotel. Finally, there’s also a rooftop bar overlooking the City of Arts and Sciences which would be perfect place to enjoy a sun-downer. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to use these on this trip but I’ll have to come back!

This is NOT a sponsored or affiliated post in any shape or form. I stayed here, I really liked the hotel and wanted to share this information in case you are planning to visit Valencia and are looking for a good hotel with gluten free and family friendly options.

Address: Hotel Barcelo Valencia, Av. de França, 11, 46023 València, Spain

Click here for the hotel’s website.

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Gluten free hotel stay Valencia Spain

 

Gluten Free Travel Tips: Gothenburg, Sweden

First of all, this post is not a gluten free guide to Gothenburg (after 3 days in the city, I couldn’t claim to write a proper guide). Rather, it’s a collection of tips, resources and places I ate which might help another gluten free visitor to Gothenburg.

Resources & Tips – The Local Guides
Before I visited Gothenburg I contacted two locals for assistance. Virginia runs the Kusten ar Klar blog. She was incredibly helpful to me both prior to my trip and whilst I was there. I highly recommend you check out her map for listings of gluten free dining options in the city. On Virginia’s blog you can find maps not just for Gothenburg, but also other Swedish cities with list of gluten free restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

I also contacted the Swedish Coeliac Society who had been incredibly helpful on my previous trips to Sweden. They provided me with a list of restaurants in Gothenburg.

Resources & Tips – Where We Ate
At the excellent Universeum museum, gluten and lactose free pancakes were on the menu and the staff cook them up fresh upon request & separately. The meatballs and mash here are also gluten free.

Gluten free Gothenburg Universeum

As in other countries in Scandinavia and continental Europe, MacDonald’s offers gluten free buns in Sweden. Two adult meals and two kids meals here cost under £20 in total. By far the cheapest meal we had in Gothenburg.

Gluten free Gothenburg MacDonalds

At our hotel (see below) I enjoyed this venison dish in the hotel restaurant. This was delicious and made a change from that great gluten free fall back meal option of steak and chips, which I ate the following night.

Gluten free Gothenburg Radisson hotel

O’Leary’s (a chain of sports bars found all over Sweden) offer gluten free options including gluten free buns. Our flight back to London was delayed and we ate at the branch at the Landvetter airport. Their website has a nutritional guide and I found the waitress to be knowledgeable.

Gluten free Gothenburg Airport

Resources & Tips – Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia, opposite the central Station. I’ve stayed in other Radisson properties in Norway and Sweden and have always found good gluten free options on offer in this hotel chain. Top 14 allergens were listed on the room service menu which I’ve seen listed in other countries through continental Europe and I wish we had the same simple system in the UK. At breakfast there was an “Allergy Corner” complete with wrapped Fria crumpet like bread.

Gluten free Radisson hotel

There was even a dedicated gluten free toaster (note the sign!) right next to it.

Gluten free Radisson hotel

Resources & Tips – Where we Shopped
I found gluten free products in the Gothenburg supermarkets I visited but the range really varied by size of supermarket. The smaller supermarkets seemed to have a limited (or no) supply but in one of the bigger supermarkets, was this fantastic selection!

Gluten free Gothenburg supermarket

I was particurlarly happy to find some delicious Semper gluten free gingerbread biscuits which my kids (who are not gluten free) loved.

In the freezer section were loads of different products and you would be well catered for if you were staying in an apartment in Gothenburg rather than a hotel.

Gluten free Gothenburg supermarket

Resources & Tips – How We Got There
We flew to Gothenburg with Norwegian. I’ve flown with this low cost airline a few times before and I really rate their high quality customer service, fleet of new planes, free in-flight wifi and a gluten free AND nut free options on board.

Gluten free Gothenburg Norwegian

Final Gluten Free Tips for Gothenburg:
• Many gluten free products in Scandinavia contain codex wheat starch. Please keep this in mind when eating out or shopping if you are sensitive to codex wheat starch
• The restaurants and cafes we visited were very clued up on gluten free options, all had nutitional booklets (same as in the UK) to double check if an item contained gluten and other allergens
• You can check out what we enjoyed doing in Gothenburg

Half Way Around the World (And Back) In Gluten Free Airline Meals

On our recent trip to Australia, we flew with British Airways using several codeshare flights within our routing. This gave me an excellent opportunity to compare the gluten free meals experienced on three different airlines; British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

These flights were taken all in Business Class.

London to Hong Kong – British Airways

Meal served after take off, starter.

gluten free breakfast British Airways Club World

Main course: BOILED FISH of course!

gluten free dinner British Airways Club World

Breakfast: Fruit (yawn) with BFree roll

gluten free breakfast British Airways Club World

The warm part of breakfast: This was quite nice…

gluten free British Airways Club World

Overall flight experience: This flight was pretty uneventful. Mini D1 – whose antics had caused me to have the worst flight ever on our flight to Tokyo (yes, even worse than taking an 8 hour domestic Aeroflot flight in 1990s Russia)- slept for 8 hours of this flight. This meant I got some sleep too.
Lesson learned: Kids can, and DO sleep on planes (see below)….

Hong Kong to Brisbane – Cathay Pacific

Fresh, tasty and well presented starter.

gluten free Cathay Pacific Business Class

Yes, it’s FISH again for main course!

gluten dinner bread Cathay Pacific Business Class

I liked the Cathay Pacific gluten free bread….

gluten free bread Cathay Pacific Business Class

Mmmm cheese….

gluten free Cathay Pacific Business Class

Breakfast

What’s in the little package?

gluten free Cathay Pacific Business Class

Inside was this. One of these was GF and the other wasn’t…but they look the same to me. I’m still not entirely sure what was in it. The one on the right seemed to have a face, but maybe I was hallucinating by that point….

gluten free Cathay Pacific Business Class

Our flight from Hong Kong to Brisbane stopped for an hour or so in Cairns airport during which time we had to get off the plane and there was a crew change over. After take off from Cairns airport I was served this, another breakfast. I think this was breakfast (from the yoghurt), but by this point in our journey to Australia I wasn’t really sure what time it was…Cathay Pacific make a top cup of tea, as you can see!

gluten free Cathay Pacific Business Class

And then this…I was pretty much fit to burst with all this food. Although this tasted fresh. I was particularly glad it wasn’t fish. Again.

gluten free Cathay Pacific Business Class

Overall flight experience: We’d had a problem pre-flight with my daughter being seated alone which was partly resolved by CP customer services but which had caused some stress before the flight.

However, I thought the gluten free meals on these flights were excellent, apart from the odd sort of pasty thing.

I’ve flown Cathay Pacific a few times before and the service is always excellent. I couldn’t fault the amazing crew and in-flight service on the Cathay flights. Special mention to the crew who boarded on the Cairns to Brisbane leg who were great and particularly our cabin steward utterly charmed my daughter.

Lesson learned: In Hong Kong international airport, the Cathay Pacific Pier lounge near gate 65 had gluten free options, including gluten free pasta. If your plane is departing from a gate nearby, head here. The lounge was also much less crowded than the Wing lounge where we had spent most of our transit in Hong Kong airport.

Brisbane to Singapore – Qantas

No gluten free meal was loaded for me on this flight.

Instead the cabin crew got the meal and ingredient lists and we agreed the following would be OK for the meal after takeoff.

Qantas Business Class gluten free meal

Followed by this starter of Vietnamese prawn salad with rice noodles, green mango and lemongass.

Qantas Business Class gluten free meal

For main I had roast lamb rump with ratatouille.

There were no suitable desserts so it was cheese again. Shame! And don’t Qantas make a great cuppa!

Qantas Business Class gluten free meal

For the meal served prior to landing, there were no suitable gluten free options from the main menu. So I had this fruit plate with a great gluten free biscuit which randomly they did have on board!

Qantas Business Class gluten free meal

 

Overall flight experience: The Qantas business class seat was great. Loads of space to store things and I loved the Kate Spade amenity kits.

Lesson learned: Sometimes you can manage to create no gluten containing meals from the regular in flight menu. But it’s a gamble and one I wouldn’t ordinarily choose to take as it’s too risky. on this particular flight there were suitable options for one of the meals served but not the other.

I learned after taking this flight from other passengers who’ve travelled recently on Qantas that special meals need to be specifically and directly requested with Qantas. Therefore, make sure a gluten free meal is requested on all legs of each Qantas flight.

I don’t fully understand the logic behind this, however, as my kids’ children’s meals (special meal code: CHML) had been requested/loaded but the GFML had not.

Singapore to London – British Airways

Meal served just after departure – starter

gluten free in flight meal British Airways Club World

Followed by…

gluten free in flight meal British Airways Club World

Yep, it’s MORE boiled FISH under the tomato. And no, I don’t know what the dark purple ball is on the bottom left.

For dessert, I forewent the gluten free fruit desert (as on every flight I took) and went for cheese instead.  Although they have snuck some grapes in there so I guess I didn’t escape fruit entirely…

gluten free in flight meal British Airways Club World

Meal served before landing – cold breakfast (nope, I wasn’t keen on more fruit)

gluten free in flight meal British Airways Club World

And the warm option

gluten free in flight meal British Airways Club World

When this was delivered to me, the crew member asked me whether, since my gluten free meal looked “a bit sad” (it was a kind of egg white omelette), would I like something extra from the kosher meal which was gluten free? Yes, was the answer to that! There had been no meal served between take off and the one before landing so a gap of around 10-12 hours without being served food meant I was hungry.

Overall flight experience: By far my least favourite of all the flights we took. A night flight lasting 14.5 hours is too long for me to be sat on a plane, let alone two 3 year olds. The flight departed Singapore just before midnight and the kids were utterly exhausted by the time we finally boarded (having spent 6 hours on a stopover in Changi Airport). As we boarded the people sat behind us actually rolled their eyes at me as they saw us approaching and they made their displeasure at being sat near a family in Business Class very clear through the flight. I have sympathy for this (I’ve flown in Business Class with screaming kids enough times before I had my own) but this is essentially public transport (whatever the cost) and you take your chances with whomever you’re seated near be they loud snorers, disruptive adult passengers or children.

Lesson learned: First of all, ensure the kids eat a proper meal in Changi airport before getting on the flight. They’d eaten a small meal in the BA lounge but in retrospect it would’ve been better to take them somewhere to eat a proper meal as they were asleep before take off and consequently slept through the meal service. This meant when they woke up (6 hours into a 14.5 hour flight), there was no meal for them (and the crew had not kept back their children’s meals when the post-take off meal was served). They then had to wait about 7 or 8 hours from waking up for the next meal (breakfast) to be served an hour or so before landing. I think my son managed to eat at least 3 packets of the spicy chilli Kettle Chips to keep him going (not great!) as this – along with chocolate bars – was all there was on offer. There weren’t even any bananas or yoghurt he could eat between meals.

More generally, I would not take this length of night flight again unless absolutely essential, there’s too long a gap between meal service for small kids to last without any food. Further, this flight was taken on an A380. I’d been excited to fly on this plane but once on board the quietness of the plane (we sat on the upper deck) meant that you could hear much more sound from other passengers / cabin crew than on other types of aircraft. Again, if you’re bothered by noise or suspect you might cause some noise on the plane, I’d avoid the A380 upper deck.

Conclusions:

  • Unlike your fellow passengers who are flying without dietary restrictions, you will not be given a menu and told what you’re having. On balancce this is probably lucky
  • You can take a large bet you’ll be served boiled fish
  • Ditto fruit (unless you appeal to the cabin crew to have some cheese instead)
  • Always check and double check your gluten free (or other special meal) has been requested
  • Be particularly cautious if flying with Qantas, and call them directly to check / request your special meal
  • I like red wine. And cheese. I really like cheese.

What is your experience of gluten free meals while flying? Could you recommend any particular airline for gluten free in-flight catering? Do you see things improving over time? Please do leave a comment below.

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Gluten Free Airline Meals flying in Business Class

My 2017 Travel Wish List

Writing a travel wish list is turning into a regular occurrence for this blog, even if generally the posts to this blog are sporadic!

In 2015 I wrote this one. And in 2016, this one which was constantly edited through the year until I finally gave up as we added more trips. 2016 was a big year of travel for us as I detailed in this epic post (I needed a lie down after writing this…).

Just as 2016 turned into the year of travel which was unexpected at the start of the year, who knows where 2017 will take us. We have two weekend breaks booked so far for this year but after that…..I don’t know!

January – the bracing winter break
Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city has been on my travel wish list for a while and finally we’re making the trip later this month! I think the Swedish fika was made for me, just my kind of activity. If I can tear myself away from enjoying a coffee and (gluten free) cinnamon bun in a cosy cafe, I’m looking forward to exploring Gothenburg’s historic area, Haga. I’ll try and sneak in a visit to the Stora Saluhallen to check out what gluten free finds they have. There seem to be plenty of activities for the kids with Museum of Gothenburg – housing Sweden’s only exhibited Viking ship, along with an interactive children’s museum – and Martiman maritime museum as ideas on the list, time and weather permitting. (image credit)

February – the we-need-some-warmer-weather-and-sunshine winter break
Valencia, Spain. Another city on my travel wish list some time, I’m looking forward to checking out the futuristic building’s at the city’s Centre for Art and Sciences. The kids will also enjoy exploring the park which has been built on the riverbed of a diverted river and which winds its way through the centre of Valencia. My initial research indicates plenty of gluten free options such as CeliacRuz. I doubt I’ll go hungry! (image credit)

Have you been to Gothenburg or Valencia? Could you recommend any gluten free places to eat? Or any kid friendly activities? If so, please do leave a comment below.

The weekend break – the new destination
Pula, Croatia. A new destination on the British Airways route map is Pula in Croatia. I’m keen to visit this city with its well preserved Roman amphitheatre. I’m also intrigued by the ‘Lighting Giants’ where cranes within a working shipyard in this port city are illuminated at night. (image credit)

The weekend break – the early summer get away
Porto, Portugal. It’s been on the list for a while and hopefully this is the year we’ll visit. (image credit)

The Summer Holiday
Tricky one. For the last 2 years we’ve had great holidays driving down to the Dordogne and hiring a villa. But I’d like to go somewhere different this year. I find driving holidays really easy (but then I don’t actually drive!) as you can chuck everything in the car and there’s no need to worry about airports, hire cars and the quality of rental company children’s car seats at your destination. The kids have – so far – been great on long car journeys and when we’ve stopped en route it’s given us the opportunity to see other destinations as part of the trip. So, perhaps hiring a villa in Italy with stops in Switzerland or south eastern France could be a possibility.

On the other hand, road tripping around Vancouver and the Pacific North West are still high on my travel wish list.

But top of Mr D’s travel wish list is a trip to Greenland, transiting one way via Iceland and the other via Canada. (image credit)

The Autumn Half Term
Cape Town, South Africa. Mr D needs some persuading on this one but I’ve never been to South Africa and a trip to Cape Town would be do-able for a week as the small time difference means no jet lag to contend with. (image credit)

The weekend break – the it’s-nearly-winter warmer
Seville, Spain. Although I’ve been a few times before to Seville, it’s been a long time. I’d like to revisit for some November sunshine as London becomes a wet, dark and dismal place. Seville always seems to be warm even when the rest of Europe is shivering from the cold. (image credit)

The work trip
Paris again, this time for a week is on the cards. I will try to refrain from charging around Paris like a crazy person in search of the increasing number of gluten free finds the city has on offer. However, no trip to Paris would be complete without a stop at Helmut Newcake.

Where would you recommend I travel to with 3 year old twins in 2017? Any suggestions gratefully received!