Seriously! I took Germany out of our European vacation itinerary because their restaurants are reputed to be gluten-free challenged.

How could a country known for its meat and potatoes be bad for people who only have to avoid wheat, barley, and rye? Apparently, they like to bread and fry everything, marinate sausages in beer, and they don’t like to be flexible.

Upon further research… Denmark and Sweden’s McDonald’s serve gluten-free burgers! Super. I added Denmark and Sweden to replace Germany.

McDonald's gluten-free hamburger in Stockholm.

Ever since my 12 year-old was diagnosed with Celiac disease a year and half ago, gluten has transformed our lifestyle. And now, even our travel route is dedicated to avoid gluten.

You might think the lack of gluten in my stomach is making me nuts.

Not so! Traveling gluten-free is hard. Let me tell you what happened in Paris.

Paris was our first stop, and we were there for 4 nights.

“Paris is easy. I have this gluten-free travel card in French, and the celiac forum said the servers in Paris are familiar with the gluten-free diet, and know what gluten is. “ I waved the travel card at my family.

French gluten-free restaurant card

Day 1: We braved the Eiffel Tower stairs all the way to deck two. On our way down, as we neared the Eiffel Tower deck one, the kids were hungry for lunch. We stood in line at an outdoor cafe to buy food.

“Bonjour, my daughter here can not eat gluten.” I showed the French gluten-free travel card to the young staff.

“Ah, gluten.” She said with a smile.

“You understand gluten?” me.

“Yes, yes, I understand gluten.” staff.

Awesome!! I don’t have to explain gluten to her.

“What can she eat here?” I asked her.

She looked around at her lunch display, shook her head at me.

“I am sorry. Everything has gluten here.” staff.

I stared at the various French baguettes and delicious looking baked goods through the glassed display.

“So, there is nothing for her to eat here?” I had hoped that a gluten-free version of these foods would be available.

“I am really sorry…no.” she looked at my daughter, and looked genuinely sorry for her.

“Ahh! There is a restaurant on deck two, and they may have gluten-free fries.” she told us.

I looked up, and was not tempted to play supermom that day. Deck two on the Eiffel Tower is NOT exactly upstairs from Deck one, it is more like 20 floors up.

“I’ll just have an icee, mom.” a small voice said.

I ordered sandwiches for the rest of us, and got the baby an icee, and a coke.

The coke and icee lunch on deck one of the Eiffel Tower

I felt terrible.

At a nearby gift shop, I found ice cream bars in their freezer, and after verifying with a staff that it didn’t contain any gluten, I bought it for the baby.

“Yay, I get to have coke and ice cream for lunch!!” the baby was excited over her “lunch”.

Day 2: We visited the Louvre. We went to the museum food court to widen our options. After walking a few rounds, it was clear that the only things that were “sans gluten” (gluten-free in French) were plain salad and fruit cups.

“I can eat coke and ice cream again for lunch.” the baby suggested.

“No! You can’t have that for lunch everyday.” me, “You will have to eat the salad or the fruit cup, or both.”

“I’ll eat the salad.” the baby said with downcast eyes.

The fruit cups did look tired and unappetizing.

Day 3: We were at the Musee d’Orsay when the lunch hour came upon us. I have come to dread hunger. The Parisians knew their gluten alright, because it is in everything!

“Great…salad and fruit cups again.” baby.

After we sat down to eat, I quickly noted that the baby was not eating.

“Why aren’t you eating your lunch? Eat more salad.” me.

“The dressing tastes bad.” baby.

The light purple colored dressing with little dots of herbs looked guilty as charged.

I felt terrible. I put down my Chicken salad baguettes, and went to look at food again.

I came back with a couple of pouches of mayonnaise. “Here, try eating your salad with mayonnaise.” me.

Baby gave me a funny look.

“Everything tastes good with mayonnaise, just try it.” me.

Baby tried, nodded her head, and ate pieces of lettuce dipped with mayonnaise.

“I will buy you ice cream later.” me.

Day 4: Paris was saved!…by a potato.

We were driving around the huge gardens of Versailles in a golf cart on day 4. As I snapped photos in Louis the XIV’s massive royal garden, and I was thinking, please! Anything but salad today.

An old man stood behind an old fashioned food cart got my attention. He was selling roasted whole potatoes. The potatoes cost 5 euros each, expensive largely due to the unlimited topping options that he generously piled onto each potato.

“One potato! With just butter and salt.” I ordered.

He smeared my potato with butter, and sprinkled salt on top. Then he waved his hand over his selections of sour cream, bacon, meat appeared to be sausages, chili, onions, and other foreign looking toppings.

“No thanks.” me.

He handed me the plain potato, totally unimpressed with me.

“A potato!!!” baby was smiling ear to ear.

“Oh this is so good” , “Yummy”, “This is the best potato ever”, the baby was chowing on the potato singing its praise loudly with each and every bite.

“Mom, I want a potato too.” 14 year-old.

I told hubby to turn around and go back to the potato guy. We bought a second potato from the guy.

“We just spent 10 euros on two potatoes.” I said to hubby.

It was money well spent. As we boarded the train bound for Amsterdam the next morning, the kids declared the roasted potato the highlight of Paris.

An afterthought:

Dining out is a challenge for people living with strict dietary restrictions. Traveling just magnifies it because you are living out of a hotel room in unfamiliar places.

We quickly learned that it isn’t enough to just walk into any cafes waving our foreign language restaurant cards, and expect to be well fed. Thanks to free wifi and the internet, we were able to conduct thorough research for the rest of the European cities we visited, and found specific restaurants that offered dedicated gluten-free menus or were very willing to accommodate people with food allergies.

We have had many more misadventures with eating out in Europe, but we have also had great finds and our celiac child did feast on many delicious and proper meals in Europe.

The gluten-free dessert at Amsterdam’s Haesje Claes.

Gluten-free dessert in Amsterdam

The gluten-free schnitzel at Prague’s Svejk Restaurant U Karla

Gluten-free dinner in Prague

The gluten-free Polish dumplings at Krakow’s Pod Baranem Restauracja. Just loved this restaurant, we ate there 3 nights in a row.

Gluten-free Polish dumplings in Krakow

Happy travels!!!

Related previous posts: Bonjour… Hallo… Hej… Halla… Χαίρετε
When You Have a Problem with Krispy Kreme
Cupcakes and Churros
A Rendezvous with Gluten Free

  • Share/Save/Bookmark
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.
One Response
  1. [...] Death by Salad Category: Family Travel Blogs, Parents You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site. [...]