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 😉

Our Cornish Tale

It’s been holiday time for Cake Towers and we’ve been loving our little retreat down in Cornwall.

Over the past few weeks, like most families, life had begun to over take us a little. Knowing that we had a holiday coming up, I guess we just kept going until we knew we would stop. But does it actually stop? Anyone with a family will know that it doesn’t really. Your surroundings may change but the washing still needs doing and little mouths still need feeding. Spending a holiday next to a beach, walking distance as well, does at least have some pay off and a change is as good as a rest.

I may have mentioned before that we are lucky enough to have two weeks of Whit half term at Noah’s school. Which makes going away on the second week, so much easier when it comes to choice, affordability and reduced crowding. We chose again this year to come to Cornwall, the venue of choice some 3 years ago when life got a little stressful to say the least and a week in The Duchy rejuvenated us as a family and bought us all back to what is important – having each other. Not that that time has been repeated, it is just as important to reconnect with each other. Too realise what each of us brings to the family unit – love.

Again we used the same holiday company, Beach Retreats, and no they aren’t perhaps cheap,  we do though get so little time together that the added expense is vastly outweighed. Booking made earlier on in the year we waited and counted down the weeks – especially the final 4 weeks. Bags packed, it was actually a bit of a rush leaving the house, but we didn’t rush the drive the south. Normally one for just getting there, we made 3 stops as for some reason check-in wasn’t until 4.30pm! Luckily there was a National Trust venue en route as well.

Arriving safely to Porth, just outside Newquay, we unloaded and made our way to the nearest Pizza Express – booked on the way down via the old inter web. Safe in the knowledge that we could all eat safely and Noah would enjoy his gluten free pizza.

That is I think the difference between eating last time we came here and now. Noah at – 4 we pretty much ate in last time we were here, now of course, Noah being 7, eating out becomes a little easier. Or should be.

At 7, Noah is great to be around when he wants to play. Over the course of the holiday we’ve spent most of it on the beach, which at Porth is fantastic. It might not be one of the biggest in North Cornwall, surfing is frowned on due to the lack of space, but by-heck we can have some fun – body boarding and building sand castles, digging deep holes and even trying to stop the tide coming in by building sand walls! Once the sea is out it’ll take you a good few minutes to get to the surf, it’s a long walk with a tired Noah.

And time stands still (ignoring the fact that the tide comes and goes). As Noah zips around the beach screaming at the sea al la King Canute, telling it to stop, whilst he runs back and forth ensuring the incoming tide doesn’t touch his toes – until that is he trips and falls in! 😀😀 . It’s a joy to watch. Then it’s back to the retreat, literally a 2 minutes walk once you’re off the beach, showered to remove the sand and then off to bed or output again for our next visit.

Our current retreat has 3 bedrooms, one en suite and a separate bathroom for the other 2 rooms, Noah and his sister Iona, were able to have a room each. Downstairs we have a utility room, another toilet, kitchen with a breakfast bar and a lounge/diner complete with a wood burner for the colder months, TV and plenty of seating. Parking is just around the corner and as the retreat actually sleeps 6, there are currently 2 parking slots allocated. On arrival Cornish milk is in the fridge and there is Cornish tea, coffee and biscuits (not gluten free) waiting to be opened. There is the obligatory welcome folder and visitors book all with helpful, local information mainly on where to eat.

Which is still a bone of contention for us. Cornwall is full of local produce, Cornwall is, I think, proud of this and rightly so, there are many local suppliers wanting your trade. There is even a Waitrose in Truro with a rather large portion of the store taken up by ‘The Cornish Shop’ sellling all things ‘Cornwall’. There are many fantastic artisan producers selling very bespoke food products (Padstow has a rather large proportion of Cornish fudge shops and is very well represented by a certain Rick Stein – plus  ‘Chough Bakery’ selling gluten free for 2018 – but it was closed when we got there). But when it comes to actual meals for children with coeliac disease, it becomes a little harder to find or even to find someone helpful. We have ended up sticking to what we know – a National pizza chain restaurant. Have we tried? Yes. Did we go out much? Probably not as much as we’d like. The feeling of being let down (on behalf of Noah) is just not worth it. Not knowing sometimes, is very hard to bear. It becomes difficult to enjoy your meal, when all Noah can have (or is willing to eat) is chips. After a while, this just gets disheartening, you begin to wonder what must be going through Noah’s mind.

We tried eating at The Heron, in a tiny village called Malpas, near Truro. Noah’s mum had just been stand up paddle boarding (well recommended) along the river Fal and it looked like a very nice place to eat. It was in fact lovely, but Noah just had chips and a hand-made burger that looked like a rather small, flat meatball. We couldn’t find a gluten free Cornish Pasty in St Ives. Oh do not get me started on St Ives! A terrible place. One cash machine (with a fee which I refuse to pay) no one seems to take contactless, its cash only or £5 minimum spend with a card! And if you’re like me (and the Queen) I do not carry cash. A very short-sighted bunch of traders, in what is a very popular place, one that we couldn’t wait to get out of! That is until we found the cafe at the top of the hill, by the car park (the one with the leisure centre in).  Brewhouse. Great service, gluten free dishes available, but Noah just wanted a drink, plus they’ll accept card payment.

We looked through the pile of places to eat locally in the retreat folder and had a look online at their menus, not really helpful when it comes to children and gluten free and when we tried contacting one to ask what they could provide for a child who couldn’t eat gluten……we are still waiting for a response after 6 days (Lusty Glaze). We are not ones to make a fuss, we are not ones to assume we are owed anything from the world because Noah has coeliac disease, but some understanding (through training) would be nice from operators. Which is why, for our final night,  we are going ….where?

Cornwall you are lovely, we could live here. But would it be spoilt if we did? Would we take our for granted? You have given us even more fond memories, ones we will remember for some time to come. We will be back soon.

Just in case you were wondering – #JamFirst 😀😀