Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bonjour Paris! Gluten & Dairy Free in the City of Lights

Let's cut to the chase and be totally honest here. Paris is not the easiest when it comes to travelling with a sensitive tummy compared to other countries - but I have to say that awareness of special dietary requirements has most certainly improved.

The last time I went about six years ago - everytime I presented my travel card I was invariably met with a "Mon Dieu!" (translation "My God!") - and whispers of "Poor girl" in French - however people still tried their best and I found the French to be very accommodating once I apologised and tried my best to poorly communicate with them in their language.  The biggest problem though was cross contamination (hard to explain if you don't know the language) and I ultimately found myself very sick after one meal - not the best result but I was still grateful that the effort was made.

Fast forward six years later and upon arriving in Paris - I had a good deal of caution in my mind and imagined a visual feast but nothing more.  But I was surprised & delighted by the changes that have occurred in my absence.

In my previous post I mentioned how I always bring my rice cooker to ensure I get a hot meal when I stay in a hotel.  This is what I did this time - however - the best way to experience Paris and its beautiful food is to rent an apartment with a kitchen - and buy your ingredients and cook your own feast.  I loved doing this the other times I've been.  Paris offers up a bevy of incredible produce - exploring markets or buying from the local supermarket is one perfect way to experience the people and its culture. What could be better? Breathe in the atmosphere, smell a tomato bursting with juice, roll orb-like aubergines (or eggplants) around in your hands and soak in all of the amazing produce. Once you take your procurements home you will be well on your way to your own delicious feast!

One place that made my heart leap for joy was Naturalia - one of Paris' major health food stores (others include Biocoop & La Vie Claire).  I found myself scanning the gluten free section like a crazed, overly excited woman!  There were cakes, biscuits, crackers and gluten free bread options.  Everything I bought tasted brilliant and the majority of what was on offer was gluten AND dairy free.  These boxes full of promise did not disappoint.  They may not have been fresh from the oven but for a place where I didn't expect anything... they were a godsend and made my trip to Paris so much more pleasurable.

As I mentioned in my previous post - my hotel organised gluten free bread especially for me.  It always helps in every situation where you hope to eat to give as much advance notice as possible.  This was absolutely the case with me and I was really touched that the hotel went out of their way to accommodate me.  As well as this - I was able to enjoy some beautiful dinners and I thankfully didn't have any repercussions.  There is a great website that lists all of the hotels in Paris that can accommodate the gluten free diet which was a great help.

On my last day I discovered that certain foie gras and duck confit are gluten and dairy free.  I didn't have any as I was about to board the plane - but you can purchase these items from places such as Hédiard.  Going to places like this are an experience in itself and the ingredients are clearly listed in English as well for peace of mind.  You can also enjoy a glacé, sorbet or even paté de fruits (or fruit jellies) which are often available too in various places such as Pierre Hermé and Hédiard.  There are some incredibly inventive flavours and Hédiard had a gorgeous display of fruit jellies (with flavours such a lychee & kiwi fruit).  But it always helps if there is an ingredients list to make sure.

Just Gluten Free?  You must continue reading!

If you don't have don't have other issues like dairy and only need to eat gluten free - you are in for some exciting information!

I have two words for you - Helmut Newcake - the very first gluten free bakery in Paris.  I didn't visit there as I was advised that everything there has butter in it and I just couldn't bare the thought of being so close and yet so far - however the owner said she has been testing some products using rice milk and will hopefully be able to offer something dairy free as well.  There is a delicious post by the great David Lebovitz about Helmut Newcake that is well worth reading.  He also has a post about eating gluten free in Paris as well.  But everything I've read about this place is that it tastes even better than the real thing!

Generally steak frites (steak and fries) is also safe for coeliacs.  Yum Yum!  If you're concerned about cross contamination - there is a beautiful place called Le Relais de L'Entrecote that prepares Steak Frites and nothing else (there are desserts as well).  My hotel checked for me and said that they would be able to accommodate me (but I'd already stuffed too many madeleines in and was too full - one regret from my trip to Paris was missing out on this meal)... However I still went there with Mr Lulu - and it is obviously good as the locals were lining up as well and Mr Lulu was extremely pleased with the meal and said the steak was cooked perfectly.

Traditional crepes & gallettes can be gluten free and are often made with buckwheat - but you have to make sure as there are different types that are also made with wheat flour, commonly the ones for dessert.  An important point is I'm unsure of cross contamination as many places seem to make both - so I'd suggest calling ahead and getting someone like your concierge to ask whether both are prepared on the same hot pans.  I have to admit I've seen them being prepared on the same hot pans in some places so this is an important one to investigate before you dive in.

Lastly - macaron fiends will be in heaven - Paris is the master of the macaron.  Oh to be only gluten free!  Tea salons such as Ladurée, Pierre Hermé and Lenotre are right at your fingertips with stores dotted all over the place. The colours and interesting flavour combinations were truly inspiring to behold.  If only I could have tried them!

So only one post for Paris - sorry guys - but here are some other places that I visited that I found really helpful.

Coping with Food Intolerances in France
Gluten-Free Travel: A Gluten Free Guide to Paris

Next up - New York (and lots of posts - there are so many delicious places I need to share with you all)!!!

See you soon xx
Miss Lulu xo

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

My Top Tips for Travelling Gluten & Dairy Free

Before every exciting journey, my adventures always begin with a good deal of preparation - to bring peace of mind and comfort so that I can really settle in and soak in what is to come...  It's not glamorous and it does take a bit of time - but I promise that all of the effort is worth it.

As a person with a sensitive tummy who loves to enjoy the world - I've realised that I just have to make peace with the fact that there'll be moments when I will either be very disappointed or absolutely terrified by some of the food that is put in front of me.  But these moments are fleeting when there is so much to see and do - and there are ways to avoid it.

So I really wanted to share how I prepare and cope with travelling - because I know that it's helped me enormously to read about how other people do it and I hope it can help some of you too.

I would love to have your comments with any advice you might have - it's always great to build on suggestions and I can learn something too!

So here are my top tips for travelling on a sensitive tummy...  the objective here is the avoid getting sick and wasting time in the bathroom in a foreign country!

1) Research
This is probably extremely obvious but explore your options on the internet - depending on the place you're visiting you're bound to find some suggestions of places to go and visit.  This can include  places to eat as well as sympathetic places to stay.

2) Get a language card that explains your dietary requirements
If you're visiting a country where you can't speak the language - a language card that explains your dietary requirements will be invaluable.  If you're a coeliac you can obtain these from the Coeliac Society and often they will also provide you with the contact for the relevant support network in the country you are visiting as well as tips.

3) If you're going to a country with a foreign language - learn a tiny bit before you go
Even though you might be armed with your language card - learning a little bit of the language of the country you are visiting is not only a mark of respect but it will make the people you are putting your faith into more willing to help you get the right food into your tummy.  Add to this a big smile and flexibility and you have a winning strategy to getting a lovely, safe meal with no yucky consequences. 

4) Contact the place you'll be staying at and let them know
It's always a good idea to give the place you're staying a heads up on what your dietary requirements are. This means that when you arrive they have the opportunity to prepare.  For example, in Paris I was the only person in the hotel who had coeliac disease and they made sure to purchase gluten free bread for my arrival - it was such a beautiful surprise!

How I feel when I get gluten free bread
(Source: from

5) What to pack 
Any sensitive tummy that has traveled before will probably already know that your suitcase will have more food than clothes in it. 

When I'm packing for a trip and 2/3 of my suitcase is filled with food
(Source: from

I not only pack food - and here is one of my best tips ... I pack a small rice cooker.  Since I thought of this I've never had to deny myself a hot meal.  You can add vegetables, meat, herbs and spices to the rice (these are readily available wherever you go) and before you know it you have a comforting, safe hot meal.  I also pack a small cutting board and knife.  Don't forget to bring an international adaptor plug.

Another good item to pack are toastabags - these are perfect to avoid cross contamination - so you can ask your hotel to toast your bread and you will be safe in the knowledge that it won't make you feel queasy.  I once tried to also pack my own toaster and it got completely wrecked in my suitcase.  So now I only have to worry about safely packing my rice cooker (with multiple clothes cushioning it) and it's proved to be a winner for me personally.

Another idea are sandwich bags - if you bring a loaf of pre-cut bread or a package of rolls - you can keep them fresh once you open the packaging by separating them into sandwich bags - then you don't have to contend with stale bread as your holiday continues.

Tummy soothing medication is another item I am never without - if I've been poisoned these standbys have been invaluable.

3) Getting on the plane - order a special meal before you go and then keep your fingers crossed! And always pack food for the plane just in case!

When I remember to bring a gluten free snack on the plane
(Source: from

Often the airlines will offer a special meal option but because I have multiple issues (gluten and dairy) they only offer one or the other but not both.  So I always order a gluten free meal and hope for the best.  It depends on the airline, even which direction you are heading ... some are fantastic whilst some just make my stomach churn (do they realise that we have tastebuds??!).

If you have lactose intolerance - pack some lacteeze (a product that helps you digest dairy).  For me - I still have symptoms if I eat a certain amount of lactose even if I take lacteeze (and it doesn't have to be much) - but I still take it as a precautionary measure. There is nothing like a bit of peace of mind when you're not completely sure.

I'll avoid gluten free bread if there is no ingredients list to check for dairy (I'd rather avoid than get sick - and there is nothing worse than having tummy troubles on the plane...) but if I get a hot meal (like rice with chicken or grilled beef with veggies) that looks & smells safe I will take the gamble.

If my companion Mr Lulu is with me I will get him to taste it for me first and see if he can detect a taste of butter or dairy.  If he gives me the go ahead I have peace of mind before I leap in.  So if you have a tummy of steel on hand it can save you a bit of grief - and this goes for the entire journey. 

But on the off chance that your meal is just too scary to contemplate eating - here are some food ideas that I always take along with me just in case... 

My own bread – I baked scones this time and also took some Schar bread rolls (they hold up well in their packaging when bashed around in the overhead locker!)
Jam, Honey or Avocado – These are my options for spreading on my bread or scones, none of them require refrigeration and it saves me from choking on dry bread!
Cucumber - Why a cucumber?  Because it doesn't need peeling or any preparation and is beautifully refreshing. Just wash, pack in a sandwich bag and off you go!
A can of salmon, tuna or fish that can be opened without an opener – I once packed a can of salmon that I couldn't open which was a silly mistake! This is nice with the bread, avocado and cucumber.
Snacks – Don't forget to bring some fun food or you won't feel like you're on holiday!  Whatever rocks your boat - I don't think anyone would need any suggestions here.

I'm often more strict with myself on the way to my destination because I want to get my adventure off to a great start - so I will always pack my own safe meal.

5) Lastly - stay positive and enjoy yourself!
I often have to remind myself not to be scared and to stay positive - there are tonnes of bad stories out there and I've sadly been in some of them.  There are sometimes misunderstandings or just a complete lack of care or some people think you're completely making it up and want to test your tummy out to see if you're telling the truth (yes this has really happened).

I've learnt that if it feels dodgy it probably is... I've learnt to listen to my instinct and and not take the risk.  The bottom line is - if you don't feel safe eating what's in front of you - you have every right not to and there is no shame in that.

But by and large - people are generally very accommodating and if you stay positive - some of your best meals will be just around the corner!

So these are my ideas that have kept me in good form when on my adventures - next up... Bonjour Paris!!!

Lots of love xx
Miss Lulu xx

PS. Thank you to for the animations I've added - they never fail to cheer me up!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

We're back!

Miss Lulu has returned from her adventures in Paris & New York bundled up with so much inspiration and new ideas!

In the next weeks I'll be blogging about my adventures - including gluten free, dairy free travel tips and amazing places worth visiting for the sensitive tummies out there.

We've already started firing up the ovens again - thanks to everyone who has already put in orders for our return and for everyone who has sent us such gorgeous emails to let us know they missed us!

I look forward to catching up with all of you again soon!

Love from Miss Lulu xo