Friday, September 6, 2013

Picky Bitch on a Plane

By Casey Knoll

I caught something during my four years of University.

It wasn't mumps (thankfully), or some other air-borne illness – I caught the 'travel bug.'

So a week after graduation (June 12), I hopped on a plane for a monthlong trip to Europe  through Great Britain and Ireland, and then Berlin, Prague, and Vienna.

A few days before my trip I remembered something: it was my first time traveling as a wheat-free woman. 

The company I traveled with, Contiki, helped with some arrangements for provided meals, but I was nervous. Surprisingly, it wasn't that bad.

I found the UK in general was fairly gluten-free friendly. Sainsbury’s, the main supermarket, had tons of gluten-free snacks. When there was one nearby, I stocked up like crazy, especially for long trips on the tour bus.  In terms of restaurants, the ones I visited either had gluten-free menus or were willing to adjust menu items for me.  I fell in love with a restaurant chain called Bella Italia – they had the BEST gluten-free pizza. I dined there twice (in York and Glasgow), and ate my pizzas at a speed that would have put the Cookie Monster to shame. 

My delicious "funghi" pasta at Carluccio's in
London Heathrow Airport
 The best meal I had in the UK was actually at  London Heathrow Airport on the night before I  flew to Berlin. I had an awesome mushroom,  or 'funghi', pasta dish at a restaurant called  Carluccio’s. I hadn't experienced a decent  pasta dish in some time, so this was a nice  pick-me-up for the trip ahead.

Gluten-free (and vegan!) crackers in Berlin.

The last half of my trip in Berlin, Prague and Vienna also brought unexpected gluten-free surprises. I found some gluten-free crackers at a health food store in Berlin – although a few grains short of tasting like sand, they served as decent 'on the road' snacks.

Chocolate cake at Schönbrunn Palace.

 On  my last night in Vienna, my group and I  went to dinner at Schönbrunn Palace where I  had an awesome gluten-free chocolate cake.  Generally, during my travels I had fruit salad  for dessert if we went out for meals (not a  bad trade-off), but having a pastry was a nice  change!

If you’re travelling gluten-free, here are a few tips: 
  • Bring as many snacks as you can in your luggage. This will tide you over until you can figure out where to eat once you've reached your destination. 
  • Do some research to find gluten-free restaurants or supermarkets where you're going.  I wish I did more of this –- it would've been a huge help!
  • Be as flexible as you can. You may end up eating the same type of meal over and over -- for me, it was a chicken breast and veggies. But hey, at least you’ll be able to eat!

Above all else, don’t panic. Travelling gluten-free can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.