Gluten Free Food in Nepal (Part 1: Kathmandu)

Hey Guys and Gals so it’s finally happened , me and the other half have started our long adventure.

First stop Kathmandu.

Now some people may have a cultural shock upon arrival to Kathmandu, but not me. Having already been to Mumbai, Kathmandu was so much more chilled out. Before I go into details, this will be a long three-part post filled with gluten free food, things to see, places to stay, and good old travel couple problems (aka meltdowns on the trek). I want to be as honest and open as possible so get comfy and pick up a pack of gluten free biscuits or two before reading.

What to Pack

First things first, when visiting Nepal, you will stop in Kathmandu as it’s the only international airport in the country. Before arriving, I advise you to pick up a pollution mask or bike mask preferablly. You can buy them here but how good they are, I’m not too sure. The reason why is because of the large amount of pollution and dust. I learnt the hard way after two days in Kathmandu by catching a cough which became a very bad cough/ cold. Don’t worry about looking silly with a mask, a lot of the locals wear them including taxi drivers and motorcyclists.

Other things to pack are shampoo bars, diarrhoea tablets , vitamin tablets, a first aid kit, oh, and how did I forget the most important item; a Lifestraw. The Lifestraw allows you to drink the tap water and even lake water. The bottled water is cheap in Kathmandu and Pokhara but if you are planning on doing a hike, everything becomes more expensive the higher up you go, including water. You’ll thank me later.

Kathmandu:

Expect to pay around about RS 800 around $8 from the airport to your hotel in Kathmandu (the only reason I’m doing it in dollars and not pounds is because it seems like dollars is a currency that hostels will take in both Kathmandu and Pokhara). You can bargain with hotels (hostels) but just book it on Agoda as it’s sometimes cheaper than just turning up. Most times you will pay directly to the hotel so change your payment into dollars and just take dollars to pay with .

Nirvana Peace Home:

The Nirvana Peace Home is the hostel we stayed in in Kathmandu. It consisted of a double room with private shower and toilet. The shower was not so hot but that wont really bother you as most hostel showers are cold, and for $6 a night you can’t really complain. The owner was lovely and very friendly so it made the stay much more enjoyable.The Nirvana Peace Home is in an ideal location, only 720m from Thamel .

Thamel

In Thamel you will find supermarkets, pubs, hiking shops (literally loads of hiking shops), where you can buy everything for your hike. I suggest you buy your boots and backpack at home as most of the items are fake, good quality but fake. The prices aren’t set. There’s a tourist price and a local price. So whatever they say the price is, half it. If they dont except it and go down in price just say too expensive and walk away. If they don’t come after you then you know the price was too low. You will know for the next shop.

Breakfast:

Most of the time I ate gluten free cereal which I bought with me from home. I also ate fruit quite often, just make sure the fruit is in its skin as they sometimes wash the fruit in tap water .

Boiled eggs, omlettes, ect are avalible but there’s only so many omlettes and eggs you can eat . I found out later on in the journey that you can get steak and eggs in a few restaurants in Thamel.

Lunch:

I didn’t eat lunch too much at the beggining of the trip but when we returned I ate lunch alot more.

Pho99: Vietnamese food. Most Vietnamese dishes are gluten free but just make sure you say no soy sauce. If you’re not heading to Vietnam like me, make sure to try a Vietnamese Coffee – very sickly but tasty as hell. I went for the Shrimp Pho and a Shrimp Curry the second time.

Cafe de Patan: a cafe in Patan, slightly overpriced but still cheap compared to the UK. I opted for a mushroom curry and rice , it was ok but a tad bland and not enough curry to rice.

Garden of Dreams Cafe: The menu is expensive and extravagant but it does look incredible. As we are on a budget and daisy is cluching on to the money belt, I have no chance of eating luxury. So we ordered chilli chips from the snack menu which came with chips in a garlic chilli sauce, peppers, and onions. It was very simiular to salt and pepper chips just without the soy (I hope, ill let you guys know later) (all fine), and a coleslaw garnish. Really tasty but super spicy.

Dinner:

Ying Yang: A Thai restaurant but like most restaurants in Thamel they offer a wide range of food. When it comes to cross-contamination just stay clear of fried food and Western food.

We ordered..

2 cokes

vegetable green curry and tofu

rice

and a rice dish with tofu and veg (not gluten free but this was for Daisy)

Total= RS 1789 = around $16 (this is slightly more expensive than a backstreet restaurant hence why we did this for dinner as a one off)

Third Eye: Indian food. Now this has been one of my favourite restaurants. I gave over my gluten free translation card and the manager catered very well for me and talked me through the menu. The only thing about the translation cards is that they are not completely accurate and no (sauce) can literally mean anything .

We ordered…

2 Litre mineral water

Newari meal vege x2

2 ciders

total= RS 2310

We also got a complimentary starter with a rice based wine that is very similar to sake which I stupidly poured all over my starter which wasn’t the worst thing as it still tasted reallty good lool .

Green Organic Cafe:

I had the chicken sizzler, chicken laid on a bed of cabbage with chips, vegetables, and a cream sauce. By far the best chicken I’ve had in my lifetime. The chicken was tender and moist, the veg was seasoned really well and the sauce was incredible. It was all served on a hotplate hence the name sizzler. For dessert I had a homemade icecream with fruit and nuts, it looked like a piece of art and was very afordable.

New Orleans Cafe & Restaurant:

This place is rammed and I kept seeing an American chap walking around talking to the waiters telling them what to do etc , so maybe it’s owned by a true Orleans man. probably why the food really resembles true American style cuisine.

I went for the 100% steak whatever that means lol, with chips and veg. I know as a rule of thumb coeliacs shouldn’t eat chips, but I only order them when i think theres less risk or no risk of contamination. Touch wood so far I’ve been ok.

I was slightly sceptical about eating the steak as it cost RS 580 with veg and chips (around 3GBP). That is really cheap and if you saw that somewhere in the UK you would really question it. It was a really tender bit of steak. P.S. it comes with a sauce so just ask without sauce as it’s better to be safe than stuck on the toilet.

OYO Tibetan Peace House:

Next time we visit Kathmandu I will defintley book this hostel way in advance , not even fussed about price. The owner and his wife and all the staff are the kindest, sweetest most lovable people (yep thats alot of cheese in one section but its true). The food is tasty and cheap and if you’re there during a hindu celebration hopefully you will get the chance to try their homemade sel roti (a gluten free rice doughnut), very tasty .

Things to see and do in Kathmandu:

Thamel:

Most people stay in or near to Thamel, so you probably will come across it. This is the place you will get all your hiking gear from and the random bits and bobs that you really dont need. Prices will vary and there is alot of room to haggle. The main people you will get hassle from are the guys selling instruments, jewlerry, and tiger balm. Oh and the “smoke hash”, weed guys. There’s lots or restaurants, bars, and even supermarkets.

Patan:

This place is beautiful in parts, other parts very congested and you want to bring your dust mask. We did go to see the Patan musuem but unfortunately the musuem was closed during the festival so we opted out of paying RS 1000 PP to go into Durbar Square as the musuem was closed and that fee included the museum.

Bouddanath:

The area where most of the buddhas live. The entrance fee was RS400 pp. Bouddanath is home to the largest Stupa in Asia and it is mind blowing how big it is and how little damage was caused during the 2015 earthquake . There are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops inside. Nearby there are a handful of monastries to visit and if you walk to the Hyatt Regency hotel (10 minutes from the stupa) there’s a free musuem and a beautiful hotel. If it’s a hot day take your swimwear and see if you can sneak into the swimming pool lol .

The Garden of Dreams:

A five minute walk from Thamel is a garden which literally is the garden of dreams. It costs RS 200 to enter or RS1500 for 10 entries. There’s some Nepali influences but mainly British inspired architecture. Step over the paving slabs through the water feature and there lies a beautiful seating area where you can enjoy a pic-nic (just becareful of the cheeky little chipmunks waiting to snatch your food). Its suprisingly peaceful even though it gets really busy in the afternoon.

A heads up, most restaurants in Nepal charge a 10% service charge and a 13% vat on top of the bill.

Restaurants:

The Temple: :Third eye :Cafe De Patan :Oyo Tibet guesthouse :Veg MoMo :

Phat Kath: :Ying yang :New orleans :Sarangi :Pho99 :OR2K

Sites:

Durbar square: The garden of dreams: Boudhnath Stupa: Thamel: Patan:

Flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara:

The flight was delayed which supposedly is the norm, it’s a very tiny airport so don’t expect to get anything food wise unless it’s snacks.

P.S. Snickers aren’t glutenfree.

We got on this tiny plane and it’s the first time I’ve been on a plane with propellars. We sat in our seats on the right hand side so we could see the Himalayas when we flew over them . Just before the plane was about to take off, the stewardess called Daisy over to make sure that the lugguage they put on was actually hers (it wasn’t ) so all of our documents for New Zealand, Daisy’s laptop, and all her clothes were lost. So during the half hour flight she was stressed which was understandable, but there was nothing we could do at that time, so shut up Daisy and enjoy the views from the plane. When we landed the inevitable happened the bag wasnt there , so Buddah Air lost Daisy’s bag but lucky enough the kind guys that handle the lugguage called the airline and the backpack was dropped off to the airport the next day. A short taxi ride and we arrived in Pokhara to begin the next phase of our journey in Nepal.

Happy Diwali Day:

P.S theres a part two…

The Search for the Northern Lights

When you go on holiday to Finland (or any other country) to search for the Northern Lights, be aware that the chances of seeing them are slim. After all, if they were that easy to find they probably wouldn’t be one of the most sought after natural wonders of the world.

Ok so I’m going to ruin the ending – we didn’t end up seeing the Northern Lights. It was our third time unlucky.

Anyway, let’s start from the beginning.

My brother, his partner Becky, Daisy and I went to Finland in February for 6 nights. The plan was to find lots of fun things to do in Finland to celebrate my 30th  birthday (early 30th – 6 weeks early to be precise) whilst searching for the Northern Lights.

FYI: With the sheer amount of gluten free food available, I’m going to discuss gluten free restaurants in Finland in a separate blog – just keep your eyes open for that one!

First Stop – Helsinki

Helsinki Cathedral, Finland. Search for Northern Lights
Watch out for the icy steps!!

We began our trip to Finland in Helsinki; the hip Finnish capital. When you hear of a capital city you usually expect it to be a busy city, right? Well that weren’t the case with Helsinki. We arrived a week before the February school holidays so that probably helped. It may be different in summer but there were no crowds of tourists flocking from one site to another on mass nor were there loads of “tourist trap” style gimmicks. Helsinki is pretty spacious and it felt pretty chilled out – perfect if you can’t stand big crowds like me.

Hotel Lilla Roberts, Helsinki, Finland. Search for the Northern Lights
One impressive lampshade at the Hotel Lilla Roberts!

Whilst in Helsinki we stayed at the Hotel Lilla Roberts, a chic design hotel in a great location. The room was a decent size and I received a lovely box of chocolates and a note to say happy birthday – thanks guys!

As we were only in Helsinki for one whole day we didn’t visit too many sites but this is what we covered:

Helsinki central station: Helsinki’s first railway station and was built in 1862. If you’re travelling into the city from the airport jump onto the train – not only is it cheap it’s also quick and you see the outskirts of the city. I suggest downloading the VR RAILWAY app to purchase tickets – it’s easy to use and convenient.

Suomenlinna Island:

island Suomenlinna is a sea fortress that was constructed in the 18th century and spans over six small islands which are each connected by bridges. Around 800 people reside here today and visitors can access the fortress by a short ferry ride which is around 5 euros return – not bad if you ask me. When visiting in winter it is quite fun riding through the ice on a ferry. Do bring some snacks as most restaurants are closed during the winter. If you’re here in the summer bring yourself a picnic or dine in some of the charming restaurants. With museums, shops, historic architecture, and nature walks, you could easily spend the whole day here unless it’s -10 degrees (which it was for us) and then you might want to head off and get in the warm.

Helsinki Cathedral:

Ok so I generally thought Helsinki Cathedral was constructed a lot later that it actually was. Completed in 1852, this cathedral has a fairly vast and modern interior and it reminded me of the Hallgrimskirkja church in Iceland (the interior not the exterior). Be careful if there is snow/ice as the steps can be very slippy – trust me I know.

We spent the rest of our time in Helsinki exploring the shops and looking at homemade gifts. There are also some great places to eat and drink which I will cover in my other blog

I know what you are thinking- there is no chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Helsinki. Well. Helsinki was just a stopover to our next destination…

The morning on the way to the airport:

So I know I wasn’t going to talk about food etc. but this is a must, as our flight was earlier than the breakfast timings, the hotel made us a breakfast  to go which included a sandwich (gluten free obviously), a juice and some snacky bits which I thought was really nice. We were now headed to Levi – deep in Finland’s Lapland region – where the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are pretty high.

Levi

Birdseye view of Levi, Lapland, Finland. Search for Northern Lights.
The view of Levi from the plane!

So first things first – Levi is a lot colder then Helsinki, so be prepared for everything to freeze including nostrils and eyelashes. There’s a coach that collects visitors from the airport and takes you straight to your hotel, its cheap (14 euros return) and a pretty journey too.

Hotel Hulu Poro, Levi, Lapland, Finland. Search for Northern Lights.
Our hotel – no northern lights yet!

Hotel Hullu Poro aka the crazy reindeer:

First things first, you ask why is it called the crazy reindeer? Well the more you walk through the hotel the more and more reindeer themed things you will notice!

So the hotel is huge. It has 2 on site restaurants and a further 13 in and around the town, a bar and lounge, a small spa, a rock café, a gym, and (my favourite part) the massage chairs in the bar. While we waited for check in we had a little wonder around and found a huge pile of snow so the obvious thing was to climb it, right? Finally it came to check in and to our shock we had been upgraded to a 3 bedroom apartment each, yes each – so if Daisy snores at least I could move to one of the other rooms (result).

The sun is setting so we head of out in search for the Northern Lights. the good thing about Levi is that you don’t have to walk to far to get out of the light pollution.

So we headed of down to the lake that is close to the K5 Hotel which is about a 15/30 minute walk depending if you stop for a quick gloggi to warm you up.

There’s a few apps you can get on your phone to find the lights. The one I suggest is Tonttula as it’s pretty easy to follow and the hotel said it has never let them down.

Luvattumaa Snow Hotel:

Ice room in Luvattumaa Snow Hotel & Gallery, Levi, Lapland. Search for the Northern Lights.
Are you brave enough to sleep on ice?

So the next day we visited Luvattumma ice gallery and hotel – a 15 minute taxi ride (£20 each way), or, a nice cross country ski trip from Levi. There is a little café inside for a hot beverage or an alcoholic drink but avoid the gloggi as it was very weak and lacked flavour. There is also an ice bar, children’s slide, maze, ice chapel and some ice rooms if you are brave enough to stay the night!

Snowmobile:

 

Snow Mobiling in LeviWe booked our snowmobile ride in advance on the Levi tourist office website. We chose the evening ride for a higher chance of seeing the northern lights. Even though they kit you out with a thermal all in one, your hands and feet get very, very cold especially when you’re stupid like me and don’t stick on the heaters for your hands – I honestly thought I had frostbite by the time we got back.

The all-around trip is about a one and a half hours and you stop half way in a little cabin surrounded by reindeer where you get a hot drink and a hot doughnut to warm you up. The experience was incredible and I would absolutely do it again just next time I’ll stick the hand heaters on.

Skiing: 

Skiing in Levi Finland
Testing out my skiing skills on the baby slopes…

We decided to not have a lesson as we were only skiing for one day. I’m glad we didn’t because it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would have been. That being said if you are going on a ski holiday or even decide you want to ski for a day, try and find a practice ski centre near where you live and have some lessons first.

Ski prices:

Ski Equipment: 36 euros for all equipment for one day.

Ski Pass:  22.05 euros for one day in low season and 24.30 in high season. (We didn’t get a ski pass we just stuck to the baby slopes)

Glass igloo:

Golden Crown Igloos in Levi, Lapland, Finland. A chance to see Northern Lights.
Our igloo for the night – the lazy way to search for the Northern Lights!

In order to enhance our chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Finland, Daisy surprised me to a night’s stay at the Golden Crown Igloos, just outside of Levi – what can I say, I’m spoilt.

When I entered I was like “wow”.

The person that designed them is just a pure genius.

Each individual igloo has a shower, toilet, a little kitchen area, sofa, and an adjustable bed to make watching the northern lights more comfortable. The glass is heated so that the snow doesn’t set onto the glass. The bottom parts of the glass are frosted for privacy but the higher parts aren’t so be careful if you like to walk around in your birthday suit. There’s also a restaurant on site that you need to book for in advance. Also bring the marshmallows as there’s a little wood fire inside a cabin for toasting and making smores. If you are gluten free bring your own sticks.

The hotel has a detailed Northern Lights app that is based just on that area. The only negative thing is that you have to pay for it. Unfortunately it was too cloudy but we did wake up a few times to check on the sky. It is such a wonderful experience to sleep beneath the great outdoors regardless of whether you see the Northern Lights or not.

So after one of the best holidays I have been on, it is time to return home. I bid Finland a farewell and thank it for a wonderful experience. And no doubt I will see it again at some point – hopefully to find those lights!

 

Rome:  The city of Senza Glutine

 

A Gluten Free Rome

When you hear the words Italy and gluten free in the same sentence, it’s pretty hard to believe. I mean you wouldn’t really expect a country that is famous for pasta and pizza to also be top notch at gluten free food.

Well mates, surprisingly it is.

Everywhere you turn in Rome there is at least one restaurant within walking distance advertising ‘Senza Glutine’ (the term for gluten free in Italian). And to think, all I could get on my BA Flight from London was a M&S millionaire shortbread.

Day 1

Arrived in Rome Termini Station. It was lunchtime and time to grab a quick snack.

What’s that?

The McDonalds in Rome do a gluten free burger – say whaaaaat!

And before you worry about cross contamination, these double cheeseburgers are wrapped in their very own individual packets and microwaved. OK, I know what you’re thinking, a microwave burger? It’s actually OK, and the best part is that’s it’s in a Schar bun – defiantly good for a quick, cheap snack to get you ready for walking around this beautiful city.

After a few hours of wandering around, we head to our hotel.  The Occidental Aurelia which is located just 15 minutes on the metro from the city centre has recently been refurbished, and looking at the previous TripAdvisor pics, it’s easy to see that they have done a pretty decent job. As we were celebrating our 8 year anniversary, not only did the hotel upgrade our room but they also left us a little treat too.

colloseo
Colosseum at night – look how quiet it is!

After some research on places to eat for dinner (Daisy) and unpacking (me), we were ready to hit the town. First stop was the Colosseo area to have a little wander before dinner. Rome during the day is spectacular but at night time when everything is lit up, that is what I call beautiful. Those that say Paris is the most romantic city in the world have certainly not been to Rome.

pizza in trevvi
Gluten free seafood pizza – Pizza in Trevvi

After a beautiful stroll we finally arrived at our chosen destination – Pizza in Trevvi. The thing that sold this restaurant to me is that it has a separate gluten free kitchen to try and eliminate that dreaded cross contamination. When our gluten free pizzas arrived, we were also handed separate packaged cutlery. I opted for a gluten free beer with a subtle taste of walnuts, very refreshing. I was really looking forward to this pizza because Pizza in Trevvi have worked upon their recipe to perfect the taste. I’ve got to say I was slightly disappointed. I ordered the seafood pizza – the sauce, the flavours, the fish – OMG wow. Yet the base I just couldn’t understand. To be fair it wasn’t dry nor hard, but the texture was slightly off. If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say it was a cross between a ciabatta and a crumpet. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t unpleasant, just not to my taste.

For dessert  I went for a silky tiramisu. The base was slightly hard and I didn’t get that lovely coffee alcohol taste however the top section was so smooth and sweet that I can forgive the rest.

Day 2

So the plan for today was supposed to be a trip to the Vatican but seeing as it’s only open one Sunday of the month and it’s free on this day, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic. Boy was I right. A queue even further than the eye could see – the pictures really don’t do it justice…

vatican queue
Part of the queue to the Vatican on the free Sunday (last Sunday of the month)

To be honest I’m not a big queuing person but if I have to I will.  So me and Daisy tested to see how quick the queue would move. She waited in the queue whilst I went to find the end of it and return to see how far Daisy would get after my 10/15 minute walk (yeah I told u it was a long queue).

I couldn’t see her, did I walk past her somehow?

Maybe she’s got further than I thought…

Oh wait. She’s over there – a few steps from where I left her.

There was no way I was queuing that long (grumpy Sean alert). Maybe next time.

Right around the corner from this queue was a much smaller queue leading to St. Peter’s Basilica. A quick metal detector and bag check, and five minutes later we were in.ST PETERS

The St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest and wealthiest basilica in Italy. It was constructed in 1626 on top of a 4th Century church and took 120 years to complete. It is adorned in some of Italy’s most famous artwork including Michelangelo’s Pieta. We were lucky enough to walk in during a Sunday service where a choir echoed through the basilica which really enhanced its regal atmosphere.

ST PETERS 2
St Peter’s Basilica

In front of this huge grand building were hundreds of chairs and two large screens – didn’t think anything of it until on the way home we saw that the Pope has done his Sunday speech that day – Yup we missed the Pope.

 

mama frites
Mama Frites – All gluten free

A few minutes walk from St Peter’s Basilica, tucked along a pretty street is a quirky gluten free fast food eatery called Mama Frites (also known as Mama Eats Street Food). This fast food version of the restaurant Mama Eats consists of a menu of fried food – perfect for a cheat day.  You can either eat in or takeaway but we chose to eat in. It’s relaxed, friendly, and was very quiet. We shared a large portion of chips and a large Cuoppo Capri (shrimps, calamari and anchovies). There was also a huge variety of dips which were served in small pots so Daisy got to have her some hot sauce. I washed it all down with a gluten free Peroni. The food was really good and the portion sizes are huge. I was that stuffed that I didn’t even get to try the doughnuts (sad face).mama frites menu

Next up was a walk to the Pantheon to burn off this lunch. The Pantheon is a Roman temple that was constructed between AD118 and AD125 by the emperor Hadrian. It is free to enter and there wasn’t a queue – bonus.

PANTHEON
When in Rome, visit the Pantheon…
cats rome
When in Rome visits Cats

Not far from the Pantheon is the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. If you love cats and love old ruins (like I do) then this is the perfect combination. It is literally lots of stray cats that have made their new home in a castle ruins. The cats are well cared for and the sanctuary is run entirely by volunteers. There’s also a little shop where you can meet some of the cats and even buy something to help support them.

Next stop was the Spanish steps. To me they’re just steps and  just another site to tick off Daisy’s list. The Spanish Steps were built in 1723-1725 in order to connect the Trinita dei Monti Church with the Spanish square. There was a nice view from the top of the stairs and a cool little bar at the top, but the terrace roof was closed so we didn’t bother going in – anxiety of sitting in an enclosed space would have crept in.

pizza 2
Gluten free land and sea spaghetti & chilli and garlic spaghetti – Voglia di Pizza

For dinner we had decided to go to Voglia di Pizza, a predominantly gluten free restaurant except for a couple of items. The restaurant boasts a huge gluten free menu. As the menu seemed so good, we decided to eat big. We went for a pizza (salmon and rocket) for starters, and I had to double check it was gluten free because it tasted that good. Of course I had an aperol spritz to wash it down with, maybe 2… I then had the land and sea spaghetti which was shrimp and sausage in a tomato sauce. I’m not the biggest lover of pasta, however; it was cooked really well and the flavours were fab. We sat outside which was probably a mistake as I got tricked into buying a plastic elephant and turtle by a street salesman (you’ll come across them a lot in Rome). But apart from that, the food was great and the service was even better. If you’re in Rome check it out.

pizz di viaglo
Gluten free smoked salmon & rocket pizza – Voglia di Pizza

Voglia di Pizza verdict: Best gluten free pizza in Rome.

Day 3 home time 😦

After checking out we headed straight to the Colosseum. The queues weren’t that bad but it was a Monday morning. If you want to avoid queuing, buy tickets in advance online to save time.

So, the verdict on the Colosseum is that it’s worth seeing but it’s slightly overrated because it was smaller than I expected. The good thing about the ticket is that it comes with entry to The Forum & Palatine Hill which are located just opposite. There’s so much to see here and if you get the chance, bring a picnic and take in the beauty from the terraced gardens.

On the way back to the train station, we grabbed an ice-cream from Grom which is a gluten free ice cream chain (you’ll see a few in Rome). I picked a pistachio ice cream in a cone (all GF of course). OMG I was in heaven. I could actually eat an ice cream and not have to worry about the cross contamination situation – oh Rome I love you.

santa maria pizza
Gluten free char-grilled veg & mozzarella pizza – Santa Maria

Within 10 minutes walking distance from the train station we found a restaurant named Santa Maria. It had a really nice outside seating area with heaters and a sign saying ‘gluten free food’ which lured us in. We shared a pizza and mussels, and once again it was so so good. They didn’t have any gluten free deserts but the waiter bought out two gluten free lemon cupcakes in plastic packages for no extra charge.

The final excitement of my gluten free trip to Rome was discovering Venchi chocolate at the airport and finding out that it was all gluten free – those Cuba Rhum chocs are now my new fave.

After that, it was home time and I really didn’t want to go.

In Rome I hadn’t felt the struggle of finding food like I do in the UK and I didn’t have to sit at a table worrying about cross contamination. I thank you Rome and I will be back soon (I hope).

Much love,

The Coeliac Abroad

The build up to the colonoscopy (or should I say the emptying)

For those who have been referred for a colonoscopy, or those who just enjoy following my experience (if there are even any of you that are still reading my grumps and groans), I hope that this will give a brief and useful insight into what exactly a colonoscopy is (with a little bit of Sean spirit added in for fun).

 
So I’m still ill and it was the consultant’s idea to have a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to explore around the large intestine (rectum and colon). A thin flexible tube called a colonoscope is inserted in ……… well the backdoor passage.
I wouldn’t normally let a random guy do that but he was pretty polite and I’m still feeling shit so fuck it… Excuse the language.

 
A few things that a colonoscopy can detect are uclers, colon polyps, tumours, inflammation or bleeding. Samples can also be collected (biopsy) and abnormal growths can be removed. My consultant was mainly checking for microscopic colitis, which can only be seen through a microscope, so a biopsy was needed.

 
The day before my test I had to eat before 9am and after that I couldn’t touch any food what so ever.

They give you a list of foods to avoid for your breakfast (high fibre):
- Breakfast cereals
- Fruit or salad
- Bacon, sausages, black/white pudding
- Wholemeal or brown bread
- Nuts
- Yogurts
- Baked beans
And some foods to eat:
 -Eggs
 -Tea, coffee
 -White bread/toast/butter
 -Croissants
 -Water, fizzy drinks, fruit squash (NOT BLACKCURRANT)

 
Now after 9am or whatever time your letter says, you cannot eat any food, not even that Hobnob biscuit. PUT IT DOWN. Clear liquids from now up until after the test. Tea and coffee are fine but no milk or any liquids that can stain such as blackcurrant etc.
I was living on water, chamomile tea and a spoonful of honey just to keep my energy up. At 6pm is when I have to start drinking this horrid horrid stuff called moviprep (laxatives). moviprep
To make one dose of this vile stuff mix sachet A and sachet B with 1 litre of water, stir until the powder is completely dissolved, this takes 3-5 minutes. For the best possible taste (and trust me it still won’t taste better than piss), put it in the fridge one hour before you have to drink it. I made the mistake of drinking it at room temperature…what a stupid idea. It took an hour to drink because it was god damn awful. I would say that it only took half an hour to kick in.

 
Don’t worry, you won’t poo yourself, you know when it’s coming.
It’s very important that you continue to drink plenty of fluids after each batch of moviprep, oh yes that’s right, there’s one more batch to drink. So charge that phone/tablet ready for your toilet breaks and after it slows down you might want to start getting ready for bed for what awaits in the morning.

 
In the morning of the test DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN’T EAT!!! You really don’t want to have to do it all again.

 
The laxatives were still working just before my test and I was in and out of the toilet like a yo-yo so if that happens to you it’s absolutely normal and if you’re not still on the loo in the morning then lucky you.

 
Sitting in the waiting room in my cool little boxers with a hole in the back, my name is called. I lie on the bed and get into the foetal position. I opted for a sedation thankfully. I stayed awake and watched on the screen. I told myself I wouldn’t but the screen was right there, tempting me. The only uncomfortable bits were when they filled the intestine with air and took some of the biopsies, apart from that I didn’t feel much.
If for any reason you need a colonoscopy don’t stress or worry about it like I did, it’s really not that bad. The worst part is drinking that bloody moviprep…

 

colon picture
Until the next time,

Sean.
XOXO

Coeliac problems in Brighton

SPOILER: This post contains more moans and groans than travel advice but I promise this will improve as my health does.

Saturday 8/4/2017 – I woke up feeling great, well, great for me…

The other half was running the Brighton Marathon on Sunday but we had to go up on the Saturday to pick up her marathon pack. Our first stop on our journey was London Victoria.

“Daisy why is the bloody train not on the board? We have ten minutes to get on the train and you haven’t even got the reference number for the tickets. We are gonna be late.”

Even after just a few words, you can probably tell that my mood was quickly deteriorating. My stomach was cramping again and I knew that my high spirits wouldn’t last long.

After a few strops and several toilet breaks, we were in Brighton. The weather was warm and bright but I was wearing a bloody jacket and we still had a mile walk to the marathon pick-up point…Yay for me.

At the Marathon Village, deck chairs were laid across the beach in front of a big screen showing the Mini Marathon.

“Daisy you collect your pack,  I’m just gonna chill here.”

After a few minutes I found myself nodding off and before I knew it Daisy had returned.

On our way back to the train station, we explored The Lanes and also come across Trafalgar Street. Trafalgar Street is directly beneath the train station and is a hip area brimming with quirky vintage shops and cool little restaurants. We were looking for somewhere gluten free and there were plenty of options. I spotted Breeze Brasserie, a chilled out restaurant with some good gluten free meals.  “Fancy eating here for lunch, Daisy?”  Of course she don’t, unless it says VEGAN, HEALTHY, AVACADO.  Oh wait, Daisy spots a sign that says “proudly independent” and what’s that? She wants to eat there now? Alright then.trafalgur street

Breeze Brasserie has an easy to read menu for allergens and after a quick word with the waitress to say that I am coeliac, I was ready to order.

I wentbreeze dinner for the pan roasted chicken breast with rosemary infused roasted sweet potatoes, a chorizo and lentil dressing with a side of crispy kale for £11.95. The dish was completely gluten free and I also had a Crabbies ginger beer to wash it down with. The chicken was moist and the flavours complimented it very well.

After lunch we jumped on the train to Gatwick. It’s got to be said that it feels so weird entering an airport and not getting on a plane but the airport’s Premier Inn was the closest place that was left that didn’t cost a fortune. So, anyway, we checked in, booked a table and then had a little nap before our meal. I really wanted to continue napping but we had to get Daisy some food, otherwise there was no way she was running that marathon.

For those who don’t know, Premier Inn offers a two course dinner, drink and breakfast for £24.99. If you’re a pig like me then you can pay a £2 supplement for the rib-eye steak, which is exactly what I did. Prawn cocktail for starter with gluten free bread and the rib- eye for main. I was told that everything was gluten-free and that the fryer is only used for chips.

Sunday morning, the alarm goes off nice and early. Before the alarm I was already out of bed on the bog. Hmm, that so called gluten-free meal at Premier Inn might not be as honest as I thought. Obviously I have now emailed the hotel but still haven’t had a reply.

Sorry, back to the story – feeling absolute shite.

All that’s going through my head is that I’m going to be stuck on this train to Brighton with hundreds and hundreds of marathon spectators crammed together like sardines.

At Gatwick train station.

What’s this? The train is cancelled.

“If the next train is rammed and I can’t get on, you jump on Daz, and I’ll get the later train.”

I said this over and over again, reassuring myself. Luckily enough not only was there a toilet on the train but it was also surprisingly empty. I reckon that the man above saw me stressing and gave me some pity. That, or the people jumped on the train before when they saw that the other was cancelled. I ran straight to the toilet, my stomach was burning, I felt sick and had a huge headache.

I’m pretty used to all the above on a daily basis but normally I’m resting at home feeling sorry for myself rather than struggling in public.I try and feed my mind with positive thoughts but it always comes back to the negative thoughts eventually, just frankly I’ve had enough of feeling this way.

Sorry let’s get back to the marathon.

Brighton was buzzing.

Daisy runs by, smiles and off she goes. Google maps at the ready and off I go to Hotel Pelirocco to check in.

After seeing Daisy again at mile 12 and chatting to some very friendly spectators along the route, my plan now was to sit by the beach right by the TOILETS (yup it always goes back to where those toilets are). I mean there was always the sea in case of an emergency… I’m just kidding…or am I?

On the beach I fell asleep, dehydrated and burning. Eventually I woke up to the voice of a runner who completed the race in an incredible two hours forty.

By the time I got Daisy some food and some juice, pop to the toilet, it was time to see her pass the 25th mile. Our friends Ashley and Emma with the kids and dog in tow also arrived to see Daisy cross the finish line but I had no phone signal to contact anyone.

Mile 25…Daisy ran by… What a relief that I didn’t miss her.

I then planned to meet her at the Marathon Village at letter D. Luckily I bumped into Ashley and Emma on the way. It was a huge relief to actually see them, Emma understands what I’m going through so it’s nice to have sometime to chill with like that. By this point I was a little more at ease and Ash was being my mum asking me if I had eaten and drank etc.

CHECK LIST:

: 1 bottle of water

: zero food

: sun burn

: stomach cramp

: headache

: dizziness

: and frankly pissed off

Of course Ashley, I’ve had a little something to eat and drink (hmm right). Even though he bought me a gluten-free paella and water, I couldn’t really eat much.

A few hours of beach bathing with the gang and it was time to head along the seafront for our second hotel of the weekend.

star wars roomHotel Pelirocco is a themed hotel and our room was Star Wars themed. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Star Wars but it was affordable and very different. The rooms were kitted out with a bunk bed, small double on the bottom and a single on top. Star Wars props were scattered around the room and there was an entire collection of Star Wars DVDs. But the thing that really made this room super cool was the Darth Vader outfit.star wars room 2

4am wake-up call needing the toilet. I won’t go into details (no one wants to hear it, trust me) but if you have had food poisoning you will understand. Train is at 3pm and I’m now panicking that I’ll be stuck on the toilet all day, majorly panicking.

: 6 imodium later

: a delayed train

: a very helpful and reassuring Daisy

: o and a sanitary towel… (don’t ask, just don’t)

We arrived home. Phew!

As I write this I can’t help but think that Daisy deserved two medals this weekend, one for running the marathon and the other for dealing with a 29 year old verging on 59.

Moral of the story, do your research, tweet some fellow travellers, find a good gluten free restaurant, try to live in the moment and don’t worry about things that may or may not happen.

If you don’t feel great, try to eat and if you can’t eat then make sure you at least keep hydrated, unlike me.

If you’ve managed to get to the end of my grumpy post, then you deserve a medal too!

Cheers,

Sean

The Best Gluten Free Fast Food Restaurants

Finding a gluten friendly restaurant can be hard sometimes, actually it can be hard full stop. Although I love going to independent eateries, when we go out to the cinema or for a casual catch up with mates, it’s easier and often cheaper to go to a fast-food restaurant. For those of us with ceoliac disease, it can be a nightmare scanning the menu to find just one or two gluten free options not to mention the constant fear of cross contamination running through our heads. So in order to make eating out as fun as it should be, I have done some research of my own to see which restaurants offer gluten free, coeliac friendly food.

Honest Burger

honest-burger
The Honest Burger with a gluten free bun and an extra burger because I was real hungry 😉

Honest burger has to be one of my favourite burger places in the UK for gluten free goodness. This burger joint does not cheap but you do get a damn good burger (cooked medium unless specified ) and a portion of delicious rosemary salted chips. I usually opt for The Honest Burger which consists of beef ,red onion, relish, smoked bacon, mature chedder, pickled cucumber and lettuce, all tucked between a gluten free bun. Top this off with a Daura Damm gluten free beer and you are in for a treat. The total cost for this is between £15-£16 and a gluten free bun is £1 extra. If you happen to visit Honest Burger in Camden, located directly opposite is a vegan and gluten free cookie and cake shop called Cookies and Scream –   definitely worth a try.

Leon

leon
Gluten free lemon cake…yum

If you’re on a diet, health kick or just prefer good clean food then this is a great place.

 

Leon is a healthy fast food eatery that offers a range of gluten free, veggie and vegan food to eat-in and takeaway. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served along with tasty cakes and coffee.

The menu varies from each restaurant but they all tend to have a pretty good range of gluten free options.

It is reasonably priced at ranges from a few £s to £10 for a meal and a drink.

So, what are you waiting for? A guilt free, gluten free fast food meal is waiting.

Ed’s Easy Diner

Of the Ed’s Easy Diner menu, 70% of the dishes can be made gluten free; just be sure to let them know if you are ceoliac. From gluten free burgers to hot dogs, this fun filled American style diner even has a separate frying area for gluten free chips, so there’s no need to worry about cross contamination. Ed’s is a great place for all the family with 1950s jukeboxes and a tantalising menu of shakes and fizzy floats.

Prices vary around £6-£12 depending on just how hungry you are. Ed’s Diner has received accreditation from CoeliacUK for their amazing commitment – Can it get any better ? Well it sure does with a warm gluten free chocolate brownie or a blueberry cheesecake, or, maybe even both. Enjoy.

Nandosnandos

I think it is safe to say that everyone enjoys a trip to Nandos, and guess what? You can too. I recently contacted this favourite food chain for an insight into their gluten free procedures to prevent cross contamination. I received a very helpful email from Nandos allergy department. As a coeliac herself, the staff member was super helpful and had a lot of knowledge about the disease. The most important information they could provide was that even though a huge section of the menu is gluten free, customers MUST make staff aware if they have coeliac disease so that they take the appropriate measures to make sure that nothing becomes contaminated with gluten. From cleaning down the grill to wiping chopping boards, staff at Nandos take Ceoliac disease very seriously  which really does make the experience much more enjoyable. I normally get half a chicken and two sides which costs £10.35, which aint bad if you ask me.

Wherever you choose to eat, the important thing to remember is to make a member of staff aware that you are coeliac.

Hope this helps!

What is Coeliac disease?

Now before I get started on my gluten free adventures, I wanted to provide some facts about Coeliac disease. If you do not have this disease or do not know what it is, I feel that raising awareness is definitely the way forward. So here are some facts about Coeliac disease:

Coeliac is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten that affects 1 in 100 people.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When people with Coeliac disease consume foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by attacking these substances. As a result of this, the small intestine becomes inflamed and the body is unable to absorb nutrients which can lead to vitamin deficiencies. 

Once diagnosed, a gluten free diet is the only treatment and that’s for life. Even a single bread crumb (gluten) can be damaging to people with Coeliac disease.

Coeliac or know someone with Coeliac disease?

Cross contamination is a big deal.

Here are some tips to help:

Look out for this gluten free sign on packaging,
Look out for this gluten free sign on packaging,
  • Avoid using the same utensils
  • Avoid frying food in the same oil as foods containing gluten
  • Use a clean grill pan or get your own toaster – let’s be honest, getting your own toaster is not the easiest or cheapest option so some toaster bags will do the trick.
  • Get your own condiments i.e. Jam, mayo, butter etc. and label them to avoid a breaded knife being dipped in
  • Get your partner to go gluten free 😉

Also, if a close family member (parent or sibling) has the condition, then the chances of having it increases to 1 in 10.

Symptoms can include:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Indigestion
  • Hair loss and anaemia
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Tingling and numbness in hands and feet
  • Difficulties getting pregnant
  • Abdominal pain

 

So, be on the safe side and GET YOURSELF CHECKED.

 

Now let the travel fun commence.

 

P.S. If you have any other tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!