2016: A Year Of Gluten Free Travel (with twins)

2016 was really the year of travel for us. It saw me take;

  • 18 flights
  • 2 Eurotunnel returns
  • 1 Eurostar return
  • 1 ferry trip
  • and visit 7 countries

Not since before I was pregnant with with our twins (now 3 and a half) have I taken so many trips. Although exploring with small kids and food allergies (me, not them) is something I feel lucky to be able to do, in all honesty there are times when I wonder why we don’t just stay at home and have an easier life. However, just as I didn’t stop travelling where I wanted to when I was diagnosed with food allergies / intolerances, having two small children hasn’t stopped me from travelling either!

With the impending start of full time school for the twingos in September (when my summer born babies will only just have turned 4 *weeps*) I wanted to document a year of travel that is unlikely to recur for quite some time.

New Year / early January – Stavanger, Norway
Mr D and I have a deal in which we go away somewhere every year for New Year. In addition, I absolutely love a random city break and Stavanger was the only destination available for a BA Air Miles redemption the day before we wanted to travel. Stavanger it was.

http://www.glutenfreemrsd.com/2016/03/kids-stavanger/

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this city. You can read some of the things we enjoyed doing in this post. Since then, there is not a week (often a day….) in which one of the twins doesn’t ask to go back to Norway. Which also led to the next trip…

Late January / early February – Bergen, Norway
Bergen has been on my travel wish list for quite some time. Although perhaps not an obvious choice for a city break in winter (it was cold, dark and snowy) nonetheless we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The kids had their first McDonald’s Happy Meal and I had a gluten free Big Mac.
gluten free big mac www.glutenfreemrsd.com

February – Isle of Wight, England
A weekend over on the Isle of Wight. I never get bored of taking the ferry over from Portsmouth; I always feel like I’m off on adventure.

www.glutenfreemrsd.com

On the gluten free front, there are increasing number of places catering to those with a gluten intolerance on the island. It’s great to be able to go for a pub lunch and find gluten free options. I thoroughly enjoyed this gluten free sticky toffee pudding with custard.

Late February – Innsbruck, Austria

An early flight meant that the kids were zonked by the time we arrived into Innsbruck. They slept in the buggy while I enjoyed a deliciously warming bowl of goulash and this epic slice of gluten free chocolate heaven.

gluten free cake innsbruck

The return flight showed me that adults cause every bit as much (in fact more) trouble on flights when a well known person sitting in front of me put on a full “don’t you know who I am?!” diva spectacle.

March – Calais, France
A day trip to France to restock the wine cellar and take the car out for the first time in over a month (we’re lucky where we live we don’t need the car very often). I got to check out the gluten free items in the French supermarket. Definitely making steps forward!

April – Tokyo, Japan
Two weeks in Japan to visit my sister who lives and works in Tokyo.

gluten free japan www.glutenfreemrsd.com

We stayed in an Airbnb (our first experience) close to Yoyogi station. The location was perfect for getting around and local amenities.

gluten free japan www.glutenfreemrsd.com

I loved sleeping on traditional tatami mats (there were beds!) but at times the layout of the Airbnb house didn’t really work for us.

In terms of gluten free eating, Japan posed an enormous challenge. There were options but it wasn’t easy, My gluten free trip report blog post is still languishing in ‘draft’…

Late April / May – Dorset, England
We stayed in a beautiful stone cottage with not just one, but two AGAs. Low beams and an inglenook fireplace, quality furnishings and a very well stocked kitchen – with wine fridge – made this the archetypal ‘down from London’ cottage. I finally got to visit Chesil Beach, found unexpectedly good gluten free options at Abbotsbury sub-tropical gardens and even enjoyed gluten free fish and chips in Weymouth.

gluten free fish and chips

May – Verona, Italy
While Verona itself is an attractive city, it’s also perfectly located for us to take day trips to Venice and spend the day at Lake Garda. On the gluten free front, I enjoyed several really great gluten free pizzas on this trip, including on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda and in a pizzeria directly opposite the Roman amphitheatre in Verona.

gluten free pizza italy http://www.glutenfreemrsd.com/2016/08/gluten-free-guide-to-italy-tips-and-resources/

Watching an opera here in the open air is definitely on my travel wish list for another trip.

June – Turin, Italy
Another trip to Italy and more gluten free pizza.

http://www.glutenfreemrsd.com/2016/08/gluten-free-guide-to-italy-tips-and-resources/

As ever I enjoyed checking out the huge variety of gluten free products in the local Italian supermarkets, including finding gluten free Peroni in the tiny supermarket next to our hotel. You can read my complete guide to gluten free travel to Italy here.

gluten free beer italy http://www.glutenfreemrsd.com/2016/08/gluten-free-guide-to-italy-tips-and-resources/

Late August / September – Dordogne, France
Our drive down the Dordogne in south west France was broken up with an overnight stop in Saumur, in the beautiful Loire Valley and in Fontainebleau outside Paris on the return.

In the Dordogne we rented a house which had everything I could hope for. Located in a small village but with a full size supermarket, the house was well equipped for travel with small children. The large swimming was fully fenced and completely secure. Also in the garden, the kids were thrilled to find a trampoline, slide, swings, Wendy house, ride on tractors, bikes scooters and on and on. In fact the house had more toys and equipment than we have at home.

Mr D was happy to find a high quality BBQ. Me? All of the above meant I had moments to relax for more than 5 minutes, a first for a holiday since the twins were born. On our last night, the village held their fête du canard to which all the town was invited. A band played, food & wine were on offer and it was a super atmosphere for us to be included in, a real highlight of 2016.

gluten free france

October – Paris, France
I spent a few days in Paris for work. I promised myself I wouldn’t race all over Paris in search of gluten free finds, as I have on previous trips. I did manage a dinner with old friends who live in Paris and a stop at Helmut Newcake to pick up a salted caramel eclair for the train home. Plus ça change…..

You can read my gluten free guide to France here. And many posts on gluten free Paris here.

November – Oxford, England
A wedding in Oxford for an old university friend gave Mr D and I the chance to have our first ever night away from the twins at the same time, while all 3 grandparents babysat back in London. We stayed in a Premier Inn as it was convenient for the wedding location. I’ve never stayed in a Premier Inn before but was impressed with the size of the room, comfy bed and breakfast in the onsite Beefeater was well signed for gluten free options.

gluten free Premier Inn

December – Barcelona, Spain
A brief stop in Barcelona. We enjoyed a walk around Las Ramblas, accidentally found ourselves walking along Barcelona’s equivalent of New York’s High Line, but somehow managed to miss the more obvious sights in Barcelona.

December – Brisbane, Sunshine Coast & Sydney, Australia
Our longest trip to date with the twins; to Australia for Christmas and New Year. Australia is a great place to be gluten free. But conversely I’ve had a couple of run ins in which I’ve been told something is gluten free, only later to find out it’s not.

But generally I found an excellent variety of savoury items labelled as gluten free in the supermarkets. It was interesting to see *much* less sugary gluten free items in Australia (cakes, biscuits etc) than in the UK. And in surprising news for readers in the UK, I only spotted one gluten free brownie on our trip! I will blog about my gluten free finds in Australia in a few weeks.

Phew, what a year of travel 2016 was! I hope this post has shown you that being a mum of young children and/or having food allergies / intolerances doesn’t need to hold you back from travelling.

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2016: A Year Of Gluten Free Travel With Twins

Trip Planning: Australia

This week we’re very lucky to be escaping gloomy London in all it’s pre-Christmas twinkly glory and heading to Australia.

Our time in Australia will be split between (Brisbane where we have family), Noosa and Sydney.

Although I’ve been to Australia many times before – I met Mr D in Sydney and we had our first date at the Sydney Opera House, later the location of Mr D proposing – it’s been a few years since my last visit.

Do you have any good gluten free restaurant or bakery recommendations in Australia and the cities we’re visiting? We’re mainly self catering so any recommendations for supermarkets with excellent gluten free ranges would be good.

And also, if you have any great kid friendly recommendations (apart from the zoos, aquariums) please do let me know in the comments below. Any tips on entertaining jet lagged 3 year old twins also highly appreciated…!

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Gluten Free London Restaurant: Pure

The trickiest issue I’ve found with being gluten free is finding a suitable breakfast. I have never been keen on eating breakfast at home before enduring the daily bun fight into work on the Tube so have always preferred breakfast al desko.

Once I was further diagnosed with a nut allergy it became even harder as most gluten free breakfast options also included nuts.

However, one of the best developments for me has been the increasing number of food outlets offering gluten free breakfast items which don’t contain nuts.

There’s a Pod next to my office which offers gluten free porridge (with your choice of toppings) as standard. However, I’ve recently fallen out of love with them because it takes them soooo long to prepare the porridge. On occasion, I’ve actually drunk my entire coffee while I’ve been waiting for my breakfast order in Pod (still love their lunches though!).

gluten free london breakfast options #pureishot

So, I was extremely happy to discover a new cafe style restaurant called Pure right by the exit of my Tube station. They have multiple locations throughout the City, West End and Canary Wharf.

All their standard porridge is gluten free. You can also choose your own porridge toppings.

gluten free London breakfast

Not keen on porridge? Pure also do egg pots which I haven’t tried yet but which seem very popular given how many other customers order them.

When the weather was warmer I bought a bircher pot made with gluten free oats and rhubarb. This is currently not on sale; their menu changes seasonally. They were also doing a blueberry version which was delicious.

Gluten free bircher London

The only downside for me (with an allergy to almonds) is that there are two porridges on offer at Pure; one with organic milk and the other with almond milk. And I have had a couple of minor freak outs when I’ve seen the almond milk porridge (which I have not requested) get rung through on the till. However, the good thing (and what sets them apart from Pod) is that Pure have both porridges pre measured out in the tubs (under heat) ready for customers. This means that not only is it quick (toppings are added later as requested) but I can also see whether the team are selecting either the organic or almond milk porridges.

It’s not just breakfasts which are on offer at Pure, they also have lots of gluten free lunch time options too. You can check out the menu here.

The coffee is also really good here. And a special thumbs up to the baristas who are super friendly.

gluten free london

If you spot a Pure around London, especially at breakfast time, I highly recommend you pay them a visit.

Cost: £5.50 Gluten free porridge (they only offer one size but it’s large) with golden syrup and blueberries with a latte

Location: Currently around 10 locations in the City, West End and Canary Wharf. Check here to find one near you.

Website: Pure – Made For You

Would I go back? I do, daily! But I do need to try out some of their lunch options.

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Gluten Free London: Pure Made for you

Gluten Free London Restaurant: Rosa’s Thai

It’s a freezing cold November day and it’s time for lunch. You’re suffering with a rotten cold. Luckily there are many options nearby which offer gluten free food, what do you choose? For me, there’s just one thing I need on a day like this….and that’s spicy food.

So when I was choosing a restaurant for work day lunch with a friend I remembered seeing an Instagram post that Rosa’s Thai offered a gluten free menu. I’ve heard lots of good things about Rosa’s but I’ve never been. A brisk 5 minute walk away from the office and we were tucked into Rosa’s warm cafe.

Having originally begun as a stall in east London’s Brick Lane in 2008, Rosa’s Thai has expanded into a chain with 8 locations in and around central London.

The gluten free menu contains plenty of options with Thai classics.

gluten free Thai food London

I have a nut allergy so this naturally means there are less choices for me in Thai food, although still plenty of choice. (I’m allergic to almonds, hazelnuts and chestnuts which are not nuts usually found in Thai food but I generally avoid all nuts).

gluten free calamari

I find it impossible to resist calamari if I find a gluten free version. What a treat! These were served with a sweet chilli dip. The gluten free batter was deliciously light.

On the menu was exactly what I needed; guay tiew tom yum. A spicy and sour soup with rice noodles along with prawns, tomatoes and mushroom.

gluten free thai food london

As our dishes approached the table the smell was just incredible. Spicy and fish sauce. Steaming hot.

I couldn’t have been more excited to tuck in. Absolutely delicious. And spicy. Totally hit the spot.

Warming, delicious and reasonably priced food. What more could you possibly want on a cold day?

Cost: £31.15 for two (incl service) including two mains, a starter and prawn crackers. Very reasonable indeed.
Location: 8 locations in central London
Website: Rosa’s Thai
Would I go back?: Rosa’s is now my new favourite lunch time restaurant and since this visit I returned with my colleagues. I couldn’t have enjoyed the food and service any more than I did. Go and try!

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gluten free restaurant London Rosa's Thai

Gluten (and Nut) Free Afternoon Tea at Claridges Hotel, London

As the venue for my first ever gluten free afternoon tea, Claridges Hotel in London has a special place in my memory. A gluten free afternoon tea hosted by Genius bread at Claridges Hotel in London was the first event I was invited to as a result of writing this blog. I love with the Art Deco style of the hotel (who wouldn’t) and it’s stunning Dale Chihuly chandelier in The Foyer. The chap I was seated next to at the event was fascinating (an investor to the Genius business) and the gluten free cakes and sandwiches were astounding. Any thoughts that gluten free food would be bland or unglamorous were banished that day.

So when it came to choosing an afternoon tea for a special birthday treat for my Mum, reserving a table at Claridges was top of my wish list.

At Claridges it’s possible to book a table for afternoon tea up to 5.30pm. We booked for 5pm. The perfect time as we were heading on to the theatre that night.

Am I alone in getting goosebumps as you enter through Claridge’s hotel’s revolving door? The interior is just so stylish and glamorous. Hydrangeas were arranged beautifully throughout. (NB excuse the poorly lit photos; 5pm in late October means it was dark)

Seated in the low lit Foyer  we enjoyed the musicians playing nearby while we admired the Chihuly chandelier.

gluten free afternoon tea Claridges Hotel

The atmosphere was relaxed and the room had a lovely chattery buzz. Not in the least bit stuffy; people were well dressed but not OTT. (The dress code is elegant smart casual). And in a reminder at how popular afternoon tea is; every table was occupied.

gluten free afternoon tea menu Claridges

We started with a glass of champagne and our sandwiches were delivered with a flourish. Now call me weird but it’s usually the sandwiches I love most about afternoon tea. And these sandwiches were just marvellous. The gluten free bread was pillow soft.

gluten free afternoon tea Claridges Hotel

And the fillings. Oh my. They were all delicious but if I had to choose a favourite it would be the Dorrington ham with truffled Parmesan dressing and the Severn & Wye smoked salmon with lemon and samphire running a close second.

gluten free sandwiches Claridges hotel

Aside from the taste and imaginative, good quality fillings, what really impressed me about the sandwiches was that I had exactly the same as the gluten eaters. I had (a lovely) afternoon tea at the Lanesborough recently but my sandwich fillings were vegetarian. Delicious, but I’d have preferred to be served, as at Claridges, the same fillings as everyone else.

Once our sandwiches and champagne had been demolished (yes they replenish the sandwiches if you would like and yes I did), we moved on to scones and pastries along with the tea choice.

I’m a complete jasmine tea fan so I was keen to try the Claridges blend and it didn’t disappoint!

gluten free scones

The gluten free scones were spectacular! Not in the slightest crumbly and delivered warmed. Alongside the Cornish clotted cream, I liked the Marco Polo gelée they were served with. Although if I had one thing I’d have changed, it would be to have lemon curd with the scones. Is that sacrilege? I don’t know but I loved the lemon curd served with scones at the Lanesborough.

gluten free afternoon tea

My pastries in this photo are all both gluten and nut free. If you are only gluten free, I think your selection might be a little different.

gluten free claridges hotel

A final word on service. Just extraordinarily great. I realised after we left that I didn’t lift the tea pot once; my cup was constantly and seamlessly replenished, almost without me even noticing. At no point during our afternoon tea did we feel even remotely hurried or pushed to vacate the table for later guests. Perhaps this is a result of the 5pm booking, but I suspect we could’ve stayed (and I would’ve been happy to settle in) for the whole evening. If you are looking for a special treat, I could not recommend the whole afternoon tea experience at Claridges more highly.

Location: Claridge’s Hotel, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR
Website: Claridges Hotel
Would I come back?: In a heartbeat
Cost: Traditional Afternoon Tea £58 / with a glass of Laurent-Perrier £68 / with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Rosé £78

Top tip: Book as far in advance as you can, afternoon tea at Claridges is very popular.

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Gluten and Nut Free Afternoon Tea Claridges Hotel, London