Gluten-free Travel

Saint-Émilion

Recently, my honey and I celebrated 10 years together. What a wonderful and wild ride it's been! We decided to mark the occasion with a second honeymoon...a big, child-free trip.

After much consideration, we planned a trip to Barcelona, Spain and then a road trip through southern France to Bordeaux. One of the factors in choosing an itinerary was being able to safely eat gluten-free. Although on one hand, it's frustrating to make that a concern, but on the other hand it's a real buzz-kill to be confined to a hotel room when you are sick from being "glutened".

During our planning, I was pleased to learn that Spain has a Celiac Association, Asociación Celíacs de Catalunya, and that restaurants are generally aware and accommodating if you say "soy celíaca". I was a little more concerned about France, where awareness isn't as great (or so I read). However, I planned ahead and brought gluten-free dining cards in Spanish and French to help with the language barriers. This really reduced my anxiety about eating and found that restaurants in both countries were extremely helpful and accommodating.

NOTE: I recommend bringing several copies of the gluten-free dining cards, because sometimes they go to the chef and do not come back.

Here are some of our eating highlights:

Barcelona
Mariscco - fresh, delicious seafood cooked to order. Try the gluten-free version (ask!) of the Arròs caldós d’escamarlans, a fantastic Catalan style lobster rice. The Corsega is the less tourist-y (& better) location says our local source.

euskal Etxea - the pub in front serves a wide variety of tapas on bread, but head to the restaurant in back for delicious gluten-free lunch/dinner items. I loved the Ondarroa´s mackerel ceviche with red chilli pepper.

Arcano - perhaps my favorite meal in Barcelona (although everything we ate and drank was delicious). The quaint atmosphere combined with lovingly created food made this night out one of our best. We had 10:30pm reservations and the party was just getting started!

Southern France
Le Vin'Quatro - located in Bergerac, this 5-6 table restaurant has a small menu that can tweaked to meet your gluten-free needs. The tasty and generous portions as well as the great wine made us feel happy and satisfied. The darling woman in the front of the house plus the delicious, modern French food makes the trip to this small town worth it!

La Tour des Vents - wow, the restaurant is perched on top of a hill overlooking acres of vineyards and French countryside. The wine list is spectacular and they have several multi-course tasting menus. Work up an appetite for foie gras, because they will dazzle your taste buds with this delicacy. The staff was extremely accommodating with my gluten-free request and reworked several courses to meet my needs. Thank you La Tour, for a meal I will never forget!

Bordeaux
Le Boutique Hotel - not just a chic hotel, but also a great place for wine tasting and tapas! One night we were running low on energy and were thrilled to learn that the hotel's bar offered a guided five wine tasting with cheese and charcuterie. We arrived around 6pm, and we had the sommelier's undivided attention. He was very generous with his time and knowledge, and he guided us through tasting wines from five different regions in France.

Le Pavillon des Boulevard - save up to dine at this little gem outside the city center. Their extensive wine list (plus helpful guidance from staff) and multi-course tasting menu dazzled us from beginning to end. The staff was gracious and accommodating while communicating in English and French. They understood my gluten-free request and altered several dishes to make them work for me. From fresh seafood starters to dainty, delicious desserts, they made our 10 year anniversary nearly as memorable as our wedding. Thanks!

Since being diagnosed with Celiac, I have felt a little anxiety each time I eat out. I have to trust someone else to be careful so that I don't get sick. This can feel like an additional burden, especially when traveling and trying to communicate in another language. However, by planning ahead (for instance, communicating needs through conceirge or hotel staff through reservations) and using the gluten-free dining cards, I felt thrilled and (mostly) relaxed while eating our way through Spain and France. Bon Appétit!