Last summer the Gluten Free Teen and I shared the gift of a trip to London and Paris together. It did not happen the way it was planned - I was going to drop the Gluten Free Teen in Eastbourne with a friend while I went to a painting workshop in Tuscany.
At the eleventh hour, literally the day before the workshop, it was cancelled.
At about the same time, the Gluten Free Teen started having second thoughts about staying with her friend for two weeks.
"Stuck" in London with time to kill (what a hardship I know) what would we do? The Gluten Free Teen decided to cut her visit with her friend short, spend a few days in London with Mom and then an impromptu trip to Paris.
Normally I prepare for hours for a trip.
I have never been to Paris.
I speak absolutely no French.
And I had no internet access!
But it was the chance to go to Paris with my lovely daughter and I decided not to let the diet, language and general unknown, interfere with the opportunity.
But first London Gluten Free:
London was pretty easy. Amazingly one of the hardest parts was the language barrier. As in the US, a lot of the chefs just do not speak English. Be sure of take or find a good map of the London streets.
We stayed at St Martin's Lane which was very conveniently located between Covent Gardens and the Theater area, but I honestly did not care for the hotel. If was this ultra-cool decor that seemed more tasteless and cheap to me. Since all we really did was sleep there, it was fine.
While in London we ate at the following places:
Breakfast for us consists largely of coffee. Yes, I even have the Gluten Free Teen hooked on my one vice. We ate the Kinnikinnick muffins that we packed with our morning java. In addition:
Costa Coffee – A chain of coffee shops that have a gluten-free cookie.
Muffinskis – Offers gluten free muffins.
We ate at two gluten free restaurants. The pasta and bread was wonderful and I would not go to London without visiting them. They were moderately priced (not high end) which helped.
De Mario, 63 Endell Street 020 7240 3632 An Italian Restaurant you can walk to from Covent Garden’s. Wonderful pasta and bread and very friendly service. We ate here twice.
Cotto- 89 Westminster Bridge Road 020 7928 5535 A tiny Italian restaurant and the owner is celiac. Delicious bread and pasta.
Savoy Hotel- High tea! If you go to their website you can make a reservation for a gluten free high tea. Make reservations in advance as this is a very busy place.
While you are there stop into any Pharmacy which will undoubtly have a great selection of gluten free treats. Reading labels is also much easier in London as labels for prepackaged food are labeled for gluten! For more on reading labels in Europe see Gluten Free Kids Travel.com.
For more on London Gluten Free be sure and check out Gluten Free London's blog.
Paris Gluten Free:
I was actually pretty nervous about Paris. We literally went on the spur of the moment and did I mention, I speak absolutely no French. We managed very well and I was proud of us for taking on the challenge.
Before you go, definitely get some form of French language card. We did not have time to do this, but luckily we had an app on the Gluten Free Teen's cell phone that was a gluten free dining card in French. You can find French dining cards at CeliacTravel.com.
One word of caution, we found a couple of times that even with the French dining card the waiter looked at us like we were nuts (or maybe just American's!) They may be able to read the card, but had to be pressed to actually understand it. At one chocolate store they insisted that all of their chocolate had gluten in it even though the ingredients were milk, chocolate and sugar.
Use your concierge! We had the most success and wonderful meals when the concierge called ahead and informed the restaurant of our diet restrictions. They cook with such fresh ingredients that it was easy for them to accommodate our diets once they understood the restrictions.
We stayed at the charming Hotel du Louvre, which was within walking distance of the Louvre of course. I highly recommend this Hotel for anyone visiting Paris. It was a wonderful location that made it easy to walk almost anywhere and it was a delightful hotel - high ceilings, rich blue tapestry with gold accents! Loved it!
Des si et des mets - The only known gluten free restaurant in Paris. Our concierge called over and over again and could not get anyone to answer the phone?
Laduree for Macaroons – absolutely wonderful macaroons.
They initially insisted they were not GF, but I persisted because I had heard they were GF being made of almond flour. What-do-you-know they decided they were GF. I loved the pistachio flavor! Honestly these made up for the French baguettes that we could not eat. Warning, Laduree is a very busy place so see if you can get a reservation or plan to stand in line. Located in the heart of the shopping district.
Pierre Herme – Wonderful chocolate and macaroons.
For a quick lunch – Omelet’s and pomme frites (french fries) are good options and easy to find almost anywhere. They do not fry a lot of food so GF frites were pretty easy to find.
Cojean – They had no idea what gluten was and spoke basically no English, but we figured out that the tomato soup and of course the salads were safe. One conveniently located behind the Louvre but remember the Louvre is huge so it can be a long walk.
Dinner – We did not go totally high-end for dinner, but the following were charming mid-price range restaurants. We had the concierge call ahead for each meal, so the restaurant was prepared for us when we arrived. It avoided a lot of trying to explain in a foreign language.
Brasserie Balzar – 49 rue Ecoles · Paris 01 43 54 13 67 We actually had lunch here. Very French. The lunch crowd was a business attire crowd so you do not want to go casually. We had frites, eggs with mayo and salads. It was pretty close to the Latin Quarter
Gallopin – A charmingly French brasserie next to the Paris stock exchange. Beautiful atmosphere and we had a very lovely dinner here.
Pierre au Palais Royal – A more modern restaurant close to the Louvre. I was not too crazy about the décor, but we had a wonderful meal here as well. Really delicious.
A Picnic on Jardin des Tuileries - I think one of our favorite dinners was a picnic at the Jardin des Tuileries. These are the wonderful gardens that reach from the Louvre up towards the Place de la Concorde. The Hotel packed us a nice salad that we complemented with our wonderful macaroons and some gourmet cheese. We relaxed with the rest of Paris as the sunset and the Eiffel Tower came to life. What a moment!
For more on Paris Gluten Free check out David Lebovitz's blog .
We also highly recommend his book The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City .GlutenFreeMom.com and click on the Travel link!