A Coeliac Adventure – Part One of Three (Airports and Airlines)

My coeliac adventures in Canberra are great fun but now and again I get the urge to take my coeliac adventures outside of the Nation’s Capital! Combined with family pressure and a friend’s wedding, I knew it was time I took my coeliac adventures to Blighty!

From mid-August to mid-September, Michael, Milly and I travelled to the UK to visit my family. This was our second trip home with the baby, although she was younger the first time and exclusively breastfed. This time, eating out was harder because we had to find places that could meet my dietary requirements and had suitable options for an 11-month-old.

We had a mix of experiences and here’s a brief (three part!) rundown of what happened!

PS. We didn’t take many photos of our food in the airports because travelling with a coeliac and a baby is stressful enough without taking pictures to commemorate the anxiety – As a result, I have tastefully drawn some pictures of my food adventures for your enjoyment!

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey

Whoever said this hasn’t been a hungry coeliac in an airport. My standard airport food is fruit salad. It is usually the only thing that I can find that doesn’t contain gluten and isn’t at risk of cross contamination.

We started our journey with a quick coffee at Canberra Airport. It was airport coffee which is all that we need to say really. We caught our flight to Sydney International airport and after checking in and clearing border control, we headed to the recently opened food court.

Sumo Salad fruit salad

We were looking for lunch by the time we got there and despite there being at least seven different places to eat, the only safe food was the fruit salad at Sumo Salad. There was a sushi store which is usually safe (without the soy sauce) but when I asked the staff there about their food prep, the woman said there was gluten in everything. The fruit salad was expensive (airport prices) and fruity. There’s not much to be said about fruit salad.

Oh Boy – M.Arnold 2017

Halfway through our trip, we headed to France for a weekend in Grenoble. We flew out of Birmingham airport, where we grabbed a bite to eat. I was able to get a salad from Pret a Manger with a coffee while Michael and Milly had sandwiches. The salad was pretty good.


Our return flights were from Lyon to Birmingham and unfortunately, we ended up stuck for six hours stuck at Lyon airport. Lyon airport is not a great place to be coeliac… orstuck. The only food available was my standard airport fare – fruit salad from Starbucks. To be honest, the gluten-y food wasn’t great either according to Michael. He had pizza from Pizza Hut and Milly had a chicken salad and some of Daddy’s pizza crust.

Our miserable time stuck in Lyon meant that instead of arriving in Birmingham and driving to Northampton for dinner with my family, we arrived at 9pm and had to find food at the airport arrivals. I was dreading this. Past experience said to me that I’d be eating fruit salad and I wasn’t happy about it however, I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived to find a Marks and Spencer’s where I was able to get a gluten free prawn salad, a chicken Caesar wrap for Michael and a snack pack of strawberries for Milly (we had baby food on the plane which she had eaten earlier, and just needed a little snack). Again, the salad was pretty good, lots of prawns and a tasty Thai style dressing. Once Michael had finished eating the wrap, he noticed that it was, in fact, gluten free too, and it was also pretty good.

Yummy Salad H.Arnold 2017

Eventually, we had to hop back onto another plane to head back home. We flew out of terminal 5 at Heathrow. We found another Pret a Manger for dinner and I had another salad and a bag of plain crisps. The gluten free food options at Pret was reasonable, and the salad was fresh and tasty.

After a mammoth flight from London to Sydney, we transferred to the domestic airport for out final flight back to Canberra. It was morning and we were thinking of breakfast. Unfortunately, the Sydney domestic airport is much like the international. There are hardly any options and they’re all fruit salad.

We grabbed coffees, a fruit salad and some greek yoghurt at a Toby’s Estate stand and were uninspired by all of it.

‘Plain’ Food

We flew with Qantas to and from Canberra to Sydney. This was surprisingly good food wise as they had gluten free biscuits for the extremely short flight. For our international flights, we flew with British Airways via Singapore. We flew with BA because they have bassinets for the baby that are suitable for children up to 2 years old (unlike other airlines who restrict the use of the bassinet to babies under 10 months).

The food on BA was terrible. The worst plane food I’ve ever eaten, and probably the worst gluten free food! On three of the four flights, I had dry white fish, soggy vegetables and gluten free bread that was inedible. It was the driest thing I’ve ever eaten and literally turned into sandy crumbs in my mouth. On the final flight, they had a breakfast made of airplane eggs (so weird) with soggy spinach and mushrooms, and rice cakes. Not as bad as the other meals but still uninspiring. And of course, each meal had melon-based fruit salad – the food of all travelling coeliacs!

Plain food – H.Arnold 2017

Of course, while in the UK and France I didn’t just eat in airports and on planes! Part two contains my reviews of some of the restaurants we went to in Chesterfield and Northampton!

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