Category Archives: Travel

Gluten Free Barcelona

September has been another busy month with a long weekend the first week and now two wedding weekends in a row. Kay has a week more holiday than me, so we always try to go away the weekend in September when I get a local holiday for work.

Tickets that weekend were surprisingly expensive everywhere, so instead of going to Venice as I really hoped, we ended up booking a flight to leave for Barcelona on Friday at 10:30pm and arrive back home the following Monday evening.

Here’s a little teaser of our trip:

We had a great time enjoying some sun for once!

Kay was in charge of activity planning while I researched food and he cheekily asked his Spanish colleague to give him a city-guide and thought his work was done. So since neither of us had looked up transportation passes or info about attractions, we didn’t realize that instead of buying a 3-day transportation pass, we could have gotten a combination museum/attraction pass that we usually like to get when we do city trips. We also didn’t realize that booking tickets ahead of time to Sagrada Familia is almost a must and we didn’t realize the 3-day card started at 11:30pm counts 11:30pm to midnight as one day, and we couldn’t use it on Monday anymore. Darn you, Barcelona!

Overall it really was just a chilled weekend going to different Gaudi sights, churches and stopping here and there for sangria in between eating tasty food with wine. I was in heaven!

Sagrada Familia was out of this world. We ended up booking tickets online on Sunday for Monday and it was a really special experience to see a church of this caliber during the construction process. You can really appreciate how much work and money truly goes into buildings like this!

I again did my research about where to eat gluten free, complete with maps, directions and opening hours of several restaurants. Allergy Chef was a very helpful website!  I always over prepare and pick out 3X as many restaurants as we need, which was good because Baci D’Angelo Patisserie, the bakery we tried to go to on the first Saturday was closed… and both of us were quite hungry as we made our way to Copasetic instead.

Copasetic turned out to be ah-mazing.

The man running the restaurant was extremely friendly and helpful, with a great sense of humour. He told us that the chef eats gluten free, so I felt really safe ordering food and the food was delicious!

The options were great too. They offered English, French and Greek combo breakfasts with gluten free bread, pancakes, crepes (!) and more, often with organic ingredients.

We ordered combo breakfasts the first day and split a crepe because we were so hungry. It was a ton of food, as the guy warned, but sooo scrumptious! Seriously, I want to go eat there every weekend!

On Sunday we went back again and I ordered a savory crepe for my main and we split pancakes. They were some of the best gluten free pancakes I’ve ever had!

I would have even gone there for dinner, but we thought we should try to find some traditional tapas places. We ended up going to Bar Ramón on Saturday night because it was close to our hotel, but the tapas were kind of disappointing, especially when they said the ones we ordered would be gluten free and they came with a big bowl of bread.

We weren’t full, so we headed to Lolita Tapería and really enjoyed finishing the night there. It was such a fun little diner and the staff were very friendly.

On Sunday we went to Tapeo for dinner. It seemed a bit touristy to us, but I also didn’t care because they were very good about the gluten free food there as well.

We finished out the weekend going to Allium for breakfast on Monday, partly because Copasetic was closed, but the breakfast was not as celiac friendly as I had hoped and the partially uncooked eggs kind of made me feel sick all day.

After we saw Sagrada Familia on Sunday, I was starving and really wanted to find one of the Conesa sandwich locations I’d marked on the map. It was the kind of local food joint I would not expect to be able to eat at and Kay was worried about it when we went because they made sandwiches and looked like they all were toasted on the same grill, but they had a special grill for the gluten-free sandwiches (yay!) and I could even have some side dishes like brava, fried potatoes.

Conesa did not disappoint! It was a yes, yes, YES. It was such comforting greasy food that I really miss when salad is the only gluten-free dish on the menu.

We finished out the day sitting in a plaça enjoying one last pitcher of sangria. I would go again, maybe when Sagrada Familia is finally finished so I can see it in all its glory. 🙂

London August 2014

London was great. Thanks to everyone for all of your suggestions!

We mainly spent the weekend walking around enjoying the wonderful weather. It only rained a bit on Friday evening and the rest of the weekend was sun and blue skies. On Friday we stumbled upon Shakespeare’s Globe (OMG!) so Kay indulged me with tickets and we went to see the Holy Warriors show there on the Saturday night.

Here are a few glimpses from our weekend:

We were a little surprised how expensive entries to Buckingham Palace ($60) and Westminster Abbey ($30!) were. Even St. Paul’s, the Cathedral, cost $26. Ouch! We didn’t buy one of the multi-museum passes for our short stay and the weather was so nice that I didn’t really feel like visiting any of the free museums either. We figure we’ll be back at some point, so best enjoy the weather when it was actually nice!

We walked all around South Bank, along the Thames, where we ran into Shakespeare’s Globe, between London and Tower Bridge, Covent Garden, stopping at Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus to go shopping at Topshop, among other things. We did pay to see the Tower Bridge museum (not Tower of London) and the Monument and spent the rest of the weekend taking photos of the famous sites, lazing in Hyde Park, shopping and eating lots of great food.

On the first morning we went to a cafe nearby our hotel Citadines Barbican where I could only get a gluten free brownie and some strange lactose-full cream and fruit. It was sickeningly sweet, but the other days there we shopped at Whole Foods and took advantage of the hotel which came equipped with mini fridge, two hobs, microwave, sink and mini dishwasher.

I did have some time before the trip to hastily look up and print out maps of gluten free restaurants. Here’s my quick and dirty gluten free guide to London:

Breakfast: Whole Foods

Lunch/Snacks: (I also carried snacks I brought with me from Zurich which I ate during the day and at the airport.)
Costa Coffee: Ended up only having some prepackaged GF snacks for sale
Pod: Clean, healthy food. Didn’t get a chance to try one of these as it was closed.
Wahaca: Cheap, delicious Mexican. Really wanted to try this!
Pret a Manger: Not much, but you can get a salad or fresh fruit here and they are all over the place.

The Truscott Arms: Pub food with many GF options. Fish and Chips and beer!Vozars: Completely GF restaurant. Eastern European w/ Brazilian influences
Dishoom: Indian in Shoreditch or Covent Garden with dedicated GF menu
Cây Tre: Vietnamese in Soho
Busaba Eathai: Thai close to Oxford Circus
Flat Iron Steak: Affordable steak near Piccadilly Circus
Honest Burgers: GF burgers
Tierra Peru: Peruvian

On Friday we had dinner at the Truscott Arms the first night because I really, really wanted GF fish and chips. They were wonderful, but a little on the small side. We also ordered GF cake in chocolate and carrot and it was all delicious. They only had normal beer on lager though and the gluten free beer in the fridge was borderline warm, so I didn’t really enjoy the beer experience as much as I had hoped.

Saturday we ate early before the show, so we went to Flat Iron Steak because I heard it was really popular and doesn’t take reservations. The menu is 99% gluten free because the whole concept of the restaurant is that they just serve steak for dinner with a salad and you can choose some sides, one of which has gluten. Kay was a big fan of this place because he is Mr. Steak and the meat itself was decent for the price. We were lucky to get in and out of the restaurant quickly and have time for a dessert from Whole Foods while walking along the Thames to the theater.

On Sunday we decided to go for Indian at Dishoom because I’ve always heard so many great things about London’s Indian food. It was definitely delicious, although the portions were also smaller than we’d expected. Maybe Kay and I just eat more these days. It was fine though.

Overall, we ate really well and I only wish we had more time to try other places. We had just had Mexican and Peruvian in Puerto Rico and Miami, so it wasn’t imperative that we have those. And it really is true, when I research which restaurants to go to, we do eat at better places than just walking around and picking randomly.

As far as activities, we hadn’t really planned anything beforehand, but I figured we couldn’t go wrong with a first visit and next time we go I’m sure we’ll plan a little more what we want to see on subsequent visits. 🙂

Heading to London

OK, it didn’t happen in 2013 as I planned, but we are finally heading to London soon!

(Image source via Flickr)

I am pretty excited, but I still need to do my gluten-free research. It really adds a lot of work to each trip, even if it’s just for a few days.

I also need to look up what to see in London. I’m a little overwhelmed because A. there is a lot of stuff to see and B. I seem to know a BUNCH of people/bees that are in or around London and I feel kind of bad if I spend all my time looking at tourist attractions instead of with people…

What would you want to see most in London?

Gluten-free Berlin

My little sister was doing an exchange year in Germany this past year. Her program was very regulated, so while she was able to come visit us in Switzerland for Christmas, visiting her every weekend did not happen. I was pretty excited when her host family asked me if I would take her to Berlin. Apparently the school trip there didn’t pan out and since I’d already met the host family, they trusted me to plan everything!

I had already been to Berlin in 2007 during my study abroad, but I went in December and didn’t see much. I organized our plane tickets to meet my sister on a Friday evening and then take the train to the main station where we stayed in a Motel One not far away.

This time I decided to do some proper gluten-free research before the trip. Researching gluten-free restaurants is much quicker and easier via computer than on a handheld device and this way I was able to print out the locations of the places with a short description so that they were easy to find without internet in the city. I also packed a fair amount of GF power bars and dried fruit so that after breakfast I would have something to snack on before dinner or in case I was in a pinch.

I chose Motel One because it was so close to the main train station. It was easy to get to and from the airport as well as around the city, despite Berlin’s disjointed public transportation system.

I also decided to pre-book the breakfast option at the hotel so that we could eat breakfast straight away in the morning and hit the city without wasting time looking for gluten-free friendly places. I just hoped it would be OK for me and it turns out it was one of the best decisions of the trip!

The breakfast was seriously the highlight of our rainy weekend in Berlin. They had so many gluten-free options with fresh fruit, fresh veggies, meat, cheese and even gluten-free rice bread and lactose free milk for my coffee. I was beyond impressed! My sister was amused by how much I ate, but with daily sports during the week, I’m completely famished all the time now!

My sister was also thoroughly enjoying the breakfast. They had muesli, hard boiled eggs, fresh bread and croissants of the gluten variety. We really enjoyed breakfast both Saturday and Sunday. We even got up a little earlier on Sunday to enjoy it even longer!

There were quite a few showers during the weekend, but when it was sunny it was really nice. It was much colder than the week before and up North the temperatures dropped quite a bit, so we bought tights and jeans for my sister who had only brought shorts.

Saturday we mainly walked around and shopped because every time it rained we would duck into a store. We saw the Berlin Cathedral, walked around Flohmarkts and shopped in the Kreuzberg district. I snacked on my GF treats whenever I got hungry because my appetite is so much bigger than my sister’s right now and we got some fresh fruit and snacks at a local market along the way.

We made plans to come visit the TV tower at night, but we were disappointed that the view was not very well set up for night visits. We mainly saw a reflection of the indoor lights… and well, once you’ve seen the tallest buildings in Chicago and NYC, it’s hard to compare.

What is a trip to Berlin without some hipster pictures?

Or some hipster coffee?

Don’t worry. We didn’t stop until we found the most hipster place possible. My sister has turned into a Euro hipster. It’s hilarious. 🙂

On Saturday night we went to dinner at the all-paleo restaurant Sauvage. My sister convinced me that we deserved an expensive meal together to celebrate our summer birthdays which are not too far off from one another. It was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it if you are into paleo or gluten-free. It is a bit on the costly side, but I really have to accept that specialty restaurants like this just have to cost more.

The next day we made sure to visit some top sights like the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the WWII memorial, the Wall and some more flohmarkts.

For lunch we went to Aunt Benny’s where they had a few gluten-free options. I had a sandwich and my first ever gluten-free dessert off a menu. OK, that’s not true… I had a chocolate flour-less cake in Vieques which was pretty good too, but this was my first ordered dessert in two months! Apple crumble. Mmmm. I could have about a billion more of them.

The weather was better on Sunday and it only rained a little, so I’m glad we waited to do the wall that day.

I had a really lovely time talking with my sister and having a relaxed weekend in Berlin. We had a loose idea of what we wanted to do and I had all my food preparation so that I wouldn’t be caught hungry searching for a place to eat. It made the weekend much more relaxing for me.

I so enjoyed this weekend away that it made me wonder why I don’t do more weekend trips in Europe. I always say I want to, but then Kay and I book ourselves up or decide that it costs too much. Well… that should change! I told you all that I wanted to go to Rome, Venice and London in 2013 and I only went to Rome last year!

Are you a fan of weekend getaways?

Miami South Beach

I’ll be honest: Miami is not a city that Kay and I would plan to visit if it weren’t for his brother living there. It was never anywhere near the top of our to-do list.

Most people I talk to over here have only been to one or two American cities: New York, LA or Miami. Miami itself is hyped up as this amazing party city that everyone needs to visit, when in reality… everyone would be better off going somewhere else.

My main beef with South Beach is that it’s extremely touristy and there is little culture beyond spring break style parties and buying expensive crap on Lincoln Road. Maybe that’s all Europeans are interested in experiencing when they visit America, but I feel like we have so, sooo much more to offer and that people shouldn’t waste their time on a place like Miami.

I found some pretty awesome vacation rentals on our three-week trip, but we kept being plagued by things like yippy dogs in Puerto Rico. In Miami it was street construction.On the first morning there, we were woken up at 7am when construction workers started ripping up our street corner right outside our place. Really, Miami? Really?

But despite the infuriating 7am wake-up calls every day (where it would later be quiet from 8am onward when you were thoroughly woken up), it was a very nice little apartment for a good price with almost all the amenities we needed. I admired the compact IKEA kitchen. The only things missing were dish soap and some kitchen towels.

If you are looking for a nice, affordable place right next to the beach, here’s the VRBO link.

Kay was really excited to drive a Z4 around Miami. It might have been his first time driving in a convertible like that. I was less impressed because I have long hair and Miami is really a city where you need an automatic for the stop-and-go, a roof to block the sun and good climate control, which the Z4 definitely did not have. I was a sweaty mess. 😉

It was still nice to hit up the beach one more time after the wedding in Columbus and brown up a bit more before going back to work. I know tanning is horrible for you… but I still love coming back with a summer glow from trips.

The view from Kay’s brother’s apartment.

Miami’s gluten free options seemed a bit easier to navigate than Puerto Rico’s and we did get to do a bit of last minute USA shopping before heading home.

My meal from Yard Bird.

Whelp. Three weeks went by quickly.

I was happy to go home because after eating out almost all of my meals and feeling sick from cross-contamination, I was looking forward to eating clean gluten-free meals at home.

I’ll try and pull together a little mini-review of our gluten-free experiences from Puerto Rico and Miami. They won’t be comprehensive, but they might help some celiacs planning travels. I know I like seeing blogs about where to eat these days!

Tell me, what do you think of Miami? Yay or nay?