Holiday time to France

As the leaves begin to fall from the trees, so the end of the school holidays draw to a close and we prepare for the autumn/winter term and the slow road into Christmas and the New Year! Where does the time go???

France. A holiday destination of our youth but as a current family, not one we have been to on our own. So with some trepidation we embarked on what we described as a little experiment. How would it go? Could we get by speaking next to no French? And how would we get by with Noah? How good were the French at catering for those with gluten free diets? Sans gluten?

Sadly we had heard before we went, that, on the whole, France is possibly not the best destination for those with Coeliac Disease. Great! What a start!

We decided to take our time down to the La Loire valley. Take a little road trip and explore some of the French countryside and not rush around. It was all to easy to come off Le Shuttle, drive south, unpack, have holiday and drive straight back.

So we took a fairly longish way down, stopping first in Dover (at a rather nameless Premier Inn, with. Beefeater attached, that did provide an allergy menu) before catching Le Shuttle the next day, driving down  via Rouen (we had to laugh at Mrs Sat Nav’s pronunciations) and into our booked first night in France, in a small gites in a little village; Boscherville.

Having emailed ahead, we ensured that our hosts were very much aware that we had someone who needed a ‘sans gluten’ breakfast. What we would get, we would have to wait and see.  Needless to say, it would appear that our hosts went out of their way to provide something for Noah to eat. Sadly, Noah was having a no-eating breakfast, but our confidence grew with sans gluten provisions. Other than that, we had a little picnic for tea from a nearby supermarket and the gites was pretty, simple and charming. Coffee in traditional bowls for breakfast 🙂

We then needed to make our way to our base camp; a Eurocamp, near la Loire. Being self catering we had of course needed to find a supermarket and stock up on supply’s. And why is it, that when you need to find something, you can’t find it? After a somewhat 30km round trip we found one hell of a supermarche! Super U. And the amount of ‘sans gluten’ product was outstanding. It was a little hit and miss after this, but on the whole, self catering in France for those needing to eat gluten free, is relatively easy. At least it is in la Loire.

We did of course bring some stuff over with us, but we could easily not have bothered. Even the camp site shop had a very limited stock of the basics – pasta…. We shall say very little about eating out, as that wasn’t our greatest success, but we didn’t expect it to be, so we pretty much ate of our own doing.  At least we knew what Noah was eating and not gambling on cross contamination in food outlet kitchens.

Then before heading back after a fantastic week of doing not very much but hanging by the pool (I didn’t bring enough books!), visiting a couple of traditional and amazing Chateaux we headed back north. But again we headed back to Calais via very circuitous route to Dieppe and a lovely B&B! Hotel de la Plage. Quite basic, but we just needed a bed for the night, a walk on the beach and a simple breakfast in the morning. And we are pleased to say that, again, there was a ‘sans gluten’ provision (Noah again having a no eating breakfast – good job we had some gluten free cereal left in the room!).

Our final stop, Cite Europe and the Carrefour supermarket just outside, literally, Le Shuttle terminal. And wow! What a fantastic array of gluten free products! No picture would have done it justice. Simply fantastic. Why these products are not available in the UK I have no idea, but if you get the chance, go and stock up. Noah felt like it was Christmas and we came back with loads of things for him to try.

So on the whole a rather successful trip all round, both in terms of travelling, driving and gluten free provision. Next year? A road trip to Italy?

What to look for – own shop brand ‘sans gluten’ can be hit and miss in some supermarkets, but the larger the store the larger the selection (not unlike in the UK I suppose) Carrefour do their own brand, but on our trip we found plenty of Schar products, Regain and Super U had their own products.

Look our for – d’orge = barley. dont ble = wheat. Glucose de ble = wheat glucose. Peut contenir = can contain. Fibre de ble = wheat fibre. Farine de ble = wheat flour. Google translate was VERY helpful 😉