2016: What a year!

At the end of 2015 I had a very long awaited baby. A son. He took our world by storm. While I came to terms with motherhood blogging was sidelined. We did however make time for travelling. We went to lots of amazing places which proved to be both challenging in terms of travel with baby and of course the gluten free aspect of life.
Our first trip out of London was in February to Scotland (hardly the tropics). I really appreciated Marks and Spencer having branches at Edinburgh Waverly as well as Edinburgh airport. I love the fact that I can grab an easy to eat sandwich in pretty much most of their branches. The Glendoick Garden Centre’s cafe near Dundee seemed to have got bigger but fortunately they still had gluten free offerings. I think I had soup and cake! We had dinner overlooking the sea in Arbroath. I had freshly made gluten free fish and chips at The Old Boat Yard in Arbroath served alongside a gf fritter. It was so lovely to have the same meal as everyone else. Can you believe the next day we had chips by the sea in St Andrews thanks to another very gluten free friendly place. All their chips were clearly marked as gluten free yay!
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Feeling brave or completely insane we took our four month old on a driving holiday around Zagreb, Sarajevo, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Kotor. It was utterly amazing. Croatia proved to be hard work to eat gluten free while eating in restaurants. Bizarrely Bosnia and Montenegro seemed marginally easier to eat gluten free. I’d say there was an honesty in Bosnia and Montenegro. Total coeliac fail moments included ordering an omelette which came with a corner of gluten toast on the top as a garnish! Yup. In the same place I was able to order an Eggs Benedict type dish done gluten free and fortunately it arrived without the gluten toast corner. I had lots of other meals at this hotel which were amazing.
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In July we went to The Maldives with a transit stop in Doha, Qatar. For my 40th birthday we went to the Maldives with our very newly weaned 6 month old. Yup it took us more than 24 hours to arrive at our location. By the time we reached the propellor plane the baby had had enough. I will be eternally grateful to the German man behind us who spent pretty much the whole flight playing peek-a-boo and other games in a bid to distract baby.
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Our stop overs at Doha airport were not long enough to leave and not short enough to sit it out on the airport chairs/lounge with a baby so we ended up booking into the transit hotel. I took along porridge pots and frankly we all survived on variations of ‘just add hot water meals” for those nights. I was very glad that we had taken the transit hotel option as gluten free options at Doha airport looked minimal.
We stayed at The Shangdi-la’s Visilingi resort which was amazing. We had a tree top villa which looked out on to the sea and with our own pool to boot. Gluten free bread was always provided whenever we requested a gluten free meal. It goes without saying it was always provided at breakfast too. The best had to be ordering various noodle dishes for breakfast with the request that they were done gluten free and they were. Our son took the opportunity to indulge in his new love of tropical fruit as well as making very clear that he loved seafood.
We flew business class with Qatar Airways. I have to say this their planes are amazing. We only used their Heathrow lounge on this trip and it was amazing. Their in flight meals were seriously chicken heavy. I think the classic was a chicken starter followed by a main course of a chicken kebab on top of a chicken breast. Seriously! Who thinks up these meals? It was such a let down compared to meals that were being eaten around me which could easily have been gluten free.
Madrid is a rather special place for us and we love going there. Initially we tried our normal format of a quick weekend. While we sort of enjoyed ourselves, our baby hated the quick weekend and to an extent we hated it too. I still managed to squeeze in a trip to Celiacoso. No trip to Madrid can be complete without it. Maestro Churrero has increased their selection of gluten free offerings to include savoury items which is pretty awesome. We went back later in the year for a slightly longer trip and had an amazing time. A slower pace with baby is obviously the way to go!
In November we went to Seoul, Korea with a transit in Helsinki, Finland. We hadn’t planned to go to Seoul. We had actually bought tickets and planned to go to Bangkok (bizarrely we had both been as children so didn’t have the fear of taking a 10 month old with us) however the Zika virus soon put a stop to that trip. So we went to Seoul. While being out and about eating gluten free was quite hard. Eating gluten free was very easy in the hotel apartment we had hired which was adjacent to two huge supermarkets. I would highly recommend choosing a self catering option for South Korea. Every day we would pack stuff for the baby as well bars and sandwiches for us. One of the safe foods which was available in most ‘corner shop’ type places was char grilled sweet potato that actually looked like a sweet potato. It was great to pick up on the way home. I think I had one day of eating things that hadn’t been home cooked and that was at the Myeongdong market. I had so many fun things: potato twirlers, grilled lobster, chicken kebabs, mussels, freshly squeezed juice. As the food is literally prepared in front of you I highly recommend standing around to watch even if stall holders don’t speak English it doesn’t take long to figure things out.  I even came across a shop making fresh gelato roses but by then I was stuffed. Honestly that day made up for all the hard days. I would go back to South Korea in heart beat it was an amazing place to visit. The posher ‘expat’ style supermarkets do have random specific gluten free items but items are random so if you are going I would definitely take some gf carb essentials.
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At Heathrow terminal 3 we planned to have breakfast at Leon pre security. I was utterly disappointed to discover that most of their hot gluten free breakfast items weren’t on the menu. MrG was even more disappointed that they didn’t do toast. The BA lounge had less to offer on the gluten free front but hey I made sure to use the butter and jam to liven up my gluten free bread!
We flew business class with Finnair. First up the best bit has to be the blueberry juice they have on board. I must have turned into a blueberry by the time we arrived in Seoul! Seriously I’ve never had a blueberry juice with such a high blueberry content. It tasted awesome. Anyway aside from the blueberry juice Finnair kept me fed 😃 honest gluten free food. The only downside was that the cabin crew didn’t know what it was (i.e. what the meal was called aside from gluten free). The piece de resistance had to be having time to spend in Helsinki airport. We got raid the Moomin shop as well as have lunch at Fosters who are very gluten free friendly. In addition we spent some time in the Finnair lounge. Our baby loved the kids room. Probably the size of a wardrobe but he got to crawl around and was introduced to blocks!
The best bit for me was in the Finnair lounge seeing a sign saying “ask about our gluten free items” so I did. I genuinely didn’t expect to get a full run down on all the food on the buffet the vast majority was gluten free. In addition they asked if I would like any of the gluten free products and they had tons of gluten free savoury and sweet things available: bread, cakes, tarts cardomn buns etc. Honestly if you are coeliac and heading east I would really recommend taking this route.
Another trip up to the grandparents and this time we dinner at the Tale End in St Andrews. We loved it. Whats not to love about fresh Haddock and chips? We had breakfast at the Premier Inn in Dundee where we staying which had been ok on a previous visit (gf bread was provided) but on this occasion I really struggled to find anything at the minimal breakfast and staff just get forgetting about to bring out the gluten free bread. A trip down memory lane for the husband at the Errol (of all places) car boot sale and I stumbled across a lovely little shop in the indoor ‘shop’ area which sells lot of fresh home made gluten free and dairy free cakes and biscuits as well products by the Wheat Free Bakery Direct.
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In early December we decided to go to the Middle East and chose to visit Abu Dhabi in the UAE and Doha in Qatar. On the way out from Heathrow T4 we had planned to eat at Carluccios but it was busy so Prets raid (with clear labelling) was super easy before we hit the Qatar Airways lounge. While the lounge has nothing specifically gluten free it does have naturally gluten free items and you will survive. Due to the timing of our evening flight it was easier to just sleep on the plane and ignore what they had to offer me. Although when I awoke and it was morning my ‘gluten free breakfast’ consisted of something like two fish courses followed by the option of a fish salad!! Yup Qatar Airways does it again on strange offerings. Here is a radical idea why don’t they make one course an omelette course? Radical thinking!
In Abu Dhabi we stayed in ‘the biggest and best room’ in the Sofitel (their words), while the reception were aware of the gluten free request nothing was really forth coming at breakfast beyond what was available on the buffet. Incidentally as our baby was with us we were told we weren’t allowed to use the premium breakfast area that we had obviously paid for in the cost of the room. Not the end of the world but… Similarly when we ordered from room service there was no effort beyond letting me know that a particular salad would be suitable. I ate out eating naturally gluten free menu items in Abu Dhabi without any problems. Supermarkets were pretty well stocked with gluten free things. There are also a couple of gluten free cafes which I didn’t get to try out. Abu Dhabi airport’s lounge had things to survive on, although the airport looked like it would be hard to find anything beyond salad. The strangest offering had to be the biryani pizza. Yes. I kid you not. Why???
In Doha Qatar we stayed in a club room at the Shangri-la and they made an effort. I’ve stayed in lots of ‘club’ rooms and most of time they don’t even provide gluten free bread so I tend to prefer to have breakfast in the main breakfast room plus there tend to be more options. Here they were pretty insistent that we use their club facilities. Having been excluded only the day before in Abu Dhabi we thought why not try out? I’m so glad we did. Breakfast items were altered under the chef’s watchful eye. In the evening gluten free canapés were provided! Amazing. I ate really well, thank you so much to the staff. Doha in general lacks any gluten free awareness so it is very much a case of going back to basics and really emphasising that you don’t want the bread and even that fails. In an awesome looking place in Souq Wafiq a menu item came with a choice of bread or rice. I chose the rice item emphasising no bread. No it still came laid on bread. When questioned, they said that bread was the setting bread! The Qatar Airways lounge is pretty huge and while there is a buffet if you want something else they will very happily oblige.
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After we came back from the Middle East poor old MrG became quite ill and he had to be admitted to St Thomas’ in London with suspected MERS. Fortunately it wasn’t MERS but it was great to see that there were so many gluten free menu options for lunch and dinner. Still nothing by way of breakfast or the ‘sandwich’ option but so long as Marks and Spencer is downstairs gluten free sandwiches and bread are available.
So that was 2016! I have no idea what 2017 has in store, so far we have not booked any flights…yet!!! What about you?

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