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Friday, 8 September 2017

A Coeliac's Experience In Paris

Last month my boyfriend and I hopped on the Eurostar for a few days away in Paris. We'd booked the  trip earlier this year and were so excited to explore the city and see the sights. Me, being the super planner that I am, took it upon myself to look up things we could do, places we just had to see whilst we were there and researching the best places for us to eat. As I have coeliac disease I always make sure I do plenty of research into restaurants and cafes that can cater for my dietary needs before going to a new place, as wandering around for hours searching for somewhere suitable when you're starving hungry ain't fun! Being coeliac not only limits my choice on the menu but I might not be able to eat at a restaurant at all if they don't have precautions in place to avoid cross-contamination - for example, I couldn't eat at a restaurant where they use the same knife or chopping board for the 'gluten free' food as they do for gluten containing foods.

When I was doing my (very in-depth) research I instantly noticed there seemed to be a lack of places providing gluten free meal options, whether cross-contamination was an issue or not, which kind of surprised'd think one of the most famous cities in the world would have lots of gluten free options! I did however manage to compile a list of around 10 different cafes and restaurants that seemed to offer gluten free options from their menus online, a few of the places were actually 100% gluten free which was amazing and made me super excited to visit them. Little did I know it wasn't all going to go to plan...

It turns out Paris is dreadful for coeliacs. Although I had the loveliest holiday and the most special few days away, the food side of things was a bit of a disaster and I wouldn't recommend Paris to coeliacs...especially in August! Everything in Paris seems to just shut down in August, and about half of the restaurants or cafes I had picked out were already scrapped because they were closed during the few days we were in the city (including Chambelland, LouLou Friendly Diner and Thank you, My Deer). It seemed crazy to me, I mean..can you imagine London practically shutting down during what is the busiest tourist month of the year? Nope, me neither.

Day 1 (Sunday)
We arrived in Paris just after lunchtime - we'd bought food at St Pancras to eat on the Eurostar and had plenty of snacks to keep us going until dinner. We checked into our hotel at around 3:30pm, settled in and had a freshen up before heading out for a wander. We walked up to the Eiffel Tower which was amazing - I always find it surreal seeing such famous sites close up, then we went to Notre Dame for a walk along the river and to see the breath-taking Notre Dame Cathedral. After this, it was time for dinner and we'd already decided to go to Hank Restaurant - a totally vegan burger & pizza restaurant with gluten free options, but on arrival we could see nothing was cooked separately. You could see into the kitchen and the 'gluten free' veggie burgers were just being chucked into the oven alongside the gluten containing burgers with crumbs flying around everywhere, not only that but apparently the 'gluten free chips' had flour on them. Needless to say we couldn't eat there! Plan B was to walk to Noglu - a totally gluten free restaurant about a 15 minute walk away, but on arrival we noticed it was closed. We then spend a good 2 hours wandering around the area, going into restaurants, looking at menus, searching online but by this point it was 10pm and everywhere was closing. We had to dash into a supermarket before it closed and pick up snacks to have for dinner....not the delicious gluten free feast I had hoped for on our first night!

Day 2 (Monday)
Monday was my favourite day in Paris and the hottest! We woke up early and decided to go for brunch at a cafe I'd found online called Judy. Judy's is a vegan and gluten free cafe located at 18 Rue De Fleurus, just around the corner from the Luxembourg Gardens which I couldn't wait to have a wander around. We walked from our hotel to Judy's (google maps was used every day in Paris!) which took just over an hour but and was such a lovely and interesting walk through the streets of Paris. On arrival I thought the cafe looked very quiet and on closer inspection we realised it was closed....closed at 10am on a Monday, it seemed a bit odd so I sent them a message via Instagram and they informed me they close throughout August. Insane and very annoying but it seems as if Paris almost goes into lock-down in August - everywhere just shuts! So that was the brunch plan out the window, but we wandered along to the Luxembourg Gardens which were just stunning - the flowers were in full bloom and there was an art exhibition going on too. By this point we were ravenous and just had to find somewhere to eat, so decided to walk to Noglu cafe (the same branch as the restaurant that was shut on Sunday evening, but we hoped we'd have more luck with the cafe!). The walk from Luxembourg Gardens to Noglu was lovely, the area was definitely a rich one and I dubbed it the Chelsea of Paris. On arriving at Noglu I practically did a little dance when I saw it was actually open, relieved isn't even the word! The cafe was small, quiet, clean, bright and modern and I was so excited to see they had a wide range of food I could eat - the cafe is entirely gluten free and has vegetarian and vegan options too. I ordered the avocado on toast with smoked salmon & salmon and my boyfriend ordered the vegetable lasagne. The food came within 5 minutes, which was lucky as our stomaches were growling, and looked utterly delicious, simple but delicious. We tucked in and devoured our meals within minutes, the food was really good - the gluten free bread I had was super tasty with a great texture and the avocado was full of flavour, my boyfriend kept saying how yummy the lasagne was too!
I have to admit, from the moment we walked into Noglu I had been eyeing up the display of sweet treats at the counter, there were cakes, brownies, cheesecakes, tarts and pastries and they all looked heavenly! I ordered myself a matcha latte made with almond milk and a chocolate brownie, and I cannot even explain how good it was. The matcha latte was wonderfully creamy and the chocolate brownie was just the right balance of richness and sweetness.

After our lunch at Noglu we decided to walk up to the Lourve which took us through some more lovely streets and across the river. We walked up to the Lourve and past it to get to the Jardin du Palais Royal, which is a 17th century courtyard and gardens tucked away from the crowds and overlooked up Palais-Royal. There is also a parade of shops but every single one of them (bar 1 restaurant and 1 cafe) was shut when we visited. The square was tranquil and pretty with large displays of flowers, a water feature and rows of trees. We spent some time wandering around this area, then found somewhere for a glass of white wine in the sunshine.

After this, we made our way back to the hotel for a much needed shower - Monday was a very hot day in Paris and we'd done A  LOT of walking! We showered, had a little rest and then decided we'd try a pizza restaurant called Big Love for dinner that severed gluten free pizza's that were prepared in a separate oven to the other pizza's - hallelujah! We got the metro to a stop close by the restaurant, and so soon as we walked up the road we could see it was very busy. We spoke to a lady at the door who informed us it would be a 45 minute wait for our table, so she took our number and we went for a drink at a bar nearby. An hour passed and we hadn't heard anything, so we wondered back over to Big Love and spoke to the lady again who said she'd just go and find as a table....finally! We were waiting for a quite a while before she came out and informed us they'd actually stopped serving pizza now...I was so ready to scream by this point. We'd waited well over an hour for a table, and now she's telling us they've stopped serving pizza at a pizza restaurant? Another supermarket snack  dinner it was!

Day 3 (Tuesday)
Tuesday was meant to be stormy in Paris, but we woke up to a really nice day. Okay it wasn't as sunny as Monday had been, but it was clear with no rain in sight! Our plan had been to have this day as a museum day but due to the nicer weather and the Lourve being shut on Tuesdays (weird) we decided to visit the Arc de Triomphe and then take a trip up to Sacre Coeur. We decided to take a route that meant we'd pass macaroon shop that sold gluten free and dairy free macaroons, but was closed, as everywhere seems to be in Paris during August! We made our way to the Arc de Triomphe where we had a sit down to people watch and of course crossed the roads for an up close look of the monument. After this we found a Pret A Manager nearby....I don't think I'd ever been so happy to see a Pret! It was actually quite a treat having lunch there as the Paris Pret has different options to the English Pret, but still with plenty of veggie and gluten free options. I had a quinoa & corn soup and a poached egg protein pot which were both really yummy, I also picked up the dark chocolate corn cakes for a snack later on.

After our refuel we made our way to Sacre Coeur Basilica, a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica which is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point of Paris. We got the metro to a nearby stop and were surprised at our village-like it felt, we found a bar for a drink before the climb up the highest point - and let me tell you, there are A LOT of stairs! The long climb was worth it for the amazing views across the city and for the general atmosphere at the basilica, it was mind blowing. There was music, a man doing an acrobatic type performance and so many artists painting and drawing.

After our long but lovely day out we made our way back to the hotel for a quick refresh before heading out to dinner. We had decided to try Noglu restaurant for our last evening in Paris, it had been closed the previous 2 days but we couldn't wait to try it! The restaurant is small but cosy and we were seated right in front of the open kitchen which I really liked - I'm super nosey and like to see how food is cooked and prepared! We had to wait a while to be given our menus and order but it was worth the wait. I ordered the veggie burger with no cheese in a gluten free bun with a side of these little potato pieces and my boyfriend ordered the burger with the potato side also. Unfortunately when our burgers arrived mine had cheese on it so I had to wait while they remade my dish, but that didn't take very long at all. When my burger arrived it wasn't what I was expected, I was prepared for an actual veggie burger but it was just roasted vegetables sandwiched together in a bun, nether the less it was still really scrumptious and I enjoyed every bite. The vegetables were cooked to perfection, the gluten free bun was an amazing texture, the potato pieces made a nice change to standard chips and it was all seasoned really well. After our meals we decided to share a brownie, the same brownie we'd had at the Noglu cafe in fact, but this time they warmed it up in the oven which just made the gooey chocolate brownie even more divine!

Day 4 (Wednesday)
We were leaving Paris at 7pm Wednesday evening, so we had most of this day free to explore the city a little more. We had breakfast in the hotel, as we had done the day before, which was useless for me - the breakfast was pastries, bread and yogurt, but thankfully I had brought some porridge oats with me which I just combined with hot water and protein powder (I had brought some MissFits sachets).
We then got all packed up and checked out of the hotel, then set off for the Lourve! I knew I had to go to the Lourve before leaving Paris and I'm really glad we managed to fit it in. We queued for about 40 minutes in the sunshine then enjoyed wandering around looking at all the amazing artwork the Lourve had on show. After being all cultural we had a little wander outside in the sunshine before finding another Pret for a quick and inexpensive lunch spot, we sat in here for about an hour charging our phones up and just chatting before another wander along the river and then back to the hotel to pick up our bags.

I'd love to re-visit Paris again one day, there's so much to see and I'd love to explore more of the city, but I definitely wouldn't go back in August and I'd perhaps take more snacks with me! If you're thinking of visiting Paris as a coeliac I'd recommend choosing a month other than August to go so there's less chance of cafes and restaurants being shut, take a coeliac card with you that explains about the illness (available here) and take plenty of snacks with you just in case. I'd highly recommend visiting the city for the sights, the culture, the monuments and for the experience!

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