We headed to Grenoble, France for a weekend at the start of September to celebrate a good friend’s wedding. The town of Grenoble is nestled among the French alps and is a big ski destination in winter. The old town is lovely and picturesque, surrounded by mountains. Everyone we saw in Grenoble was friendly and patient, particularly as Michael and I struggled in half broken French and half English!
I expected delicious gluten free bread, cheeses and had my fingers crossed for a nice dinner somewhere that I could get some traditional French cuisine. Although I got two of these, Grenoble was a stressful experience food wise.
Due to roadworks and traffic, our 55 minute from Lyon to Grenoble took two and a half hours. We arrived hungry, stressed and grumpy. We were exhausted and needed food immediately so Michael got Maccas, Milly had baby food that we’d bought with us from the UK, and I had une jambon et fromage bagette – a ham and cheese sandwich. Michael picked up the ingredients from the supermarket on his way to Maccas!
The following morning, we decided to try breakfast at our hotel. We had specifically decided to stay at the Ibis Grenoble Centre because they offered a gluten free breakfast and we were not disappointed. They prepared a selection of gluten free breads and madeleines every morning for me, plus I could pick from a range of goodies on the breakfast buffet including the traditional continental breakfast staples – cold meats, cheese, Nutella, fruit salad, yoghurt and boiled eggs.
Unfortunately, after breakfast food became hard work. I think our difficulty was because we were the double threat – coeliac plus baby. Finding a place open early enough for the baby to eat which ALSO had gluten free options was horribly hard. In the end, I ate a lot of ham and cheese baguettes and Milly had baby food pouches. Despite hours spent online searching for restaurants, we came up mostly blank.
For lunch the following day, I had my traveller’s staple – fruit salad. I get full on hangry which is a joy for Michael to deal with so after searching for an hour, we tried Jardin du The. This was the only place we found in the Old Town of Grenoble which had gluten free cake and fruit salad. It was a bit depressing, I was super hungry, tired and grumpy.
That evening, we attempted to get food from a place called PauseBio. This was also unsuccessful. They had gluten free vegetable wraps but after a day without a real meal, I needed something more substantial. We mooched around for an hour or so without success, with a grumpy coeliac, increasingly hungry and tired baby and patient husband.
Eventually, we found O Bo Bun and it was like a shining gluten free star in a dense, black sky. We ordered two bowls of Bo Bun Noodles from a lovely lady who spoke French and English. The noodles were delicious, with pork, prawns and tiny, crunchy spring rolls in them, plus homemade fish sauce all gluten free. In fact, the lady assured us that everything in the restaurant was gluten free (except the beer). I can’t tell you how happy I was to get some proper food in me!
Our second day in Grenoble was the day of the wedding! We breakfasted at the Hotel and grabbed some ham, cheese, bread and nibbles from the nearby Monoprix supermarket for lunch. The fruit and cheese at the supermarkets was great, but we didn’t find any that had dedicated gluten-free areas with anything like the ranges we’ve come to expect in Australia (and the UK).
That afternoon we attended my friend’s wedding ceremony at the Town Hall and reception up in the mountains. Despite the rain, it was a fantastic afternoon filled with love and celebration! And the food was good too! By far the best food we ate in Grenoble! I had a specially prepared plate of delicious coeliac suitable goodies including antipasti, a caponata salad of aubergine, onions, and tomatoes, a creamy white bean salad with rosemary and olive oil, and capsicums with roasted olives, garlic and basil.
We left Grenoble the following day after breakfast and spent the day at Lyon airport (you can catch up on that miserable experience in part one). It was a stressful but worthwhile experience and I got to see an old friend get hitched in a beautiful place.
Groceries in the UK
Back in the UK, the range of products available in supermarkets probably wasn’t as extensive as the range on Australia, but the products themselves were different. It was still necessary to read the labels though as oats are considered gluten free in the UK. The area where this really cut down options was nut/muesli bars – we didn’t find any as good as the Carmen’s range in Australia.
We shopped at a few places like Tesco, Aldi and Waitrose that all had reasonable ranges of gluten free foods where you could buy staples. However, there were two places that were great!
The Sainsburys superstore in Chesterfield, was amazing! Not only did they have a good range of items, they also had the prized gluten free Bakewell tarts which I love, and they had freshly baked gluten free bread.
In the bakery section of Sainsburys we found 2 pack white and brown rolls, and white farmhouse loaves of bread. These were wrapped individually, cooked from parbaked in store, and they were really good! We picnic’d a few times and I ate this bread each time. It was fresh, soft and delicious, and it is definitely something that supermarkets in Australia should be looking into!
Marks and Spencer also deserves a mention for their gluten free food. Although their supermarket range was average, their lunch items were great, particularly the pre-packaged gluten free chicken Caesar wrap and the sandwiches. Finding a chain café that did reliable gluten free takes the pressure off when you’re out and about (Pret a Manger was also a good back-up option – see my review in part one)
Top Tips for Travelling as a Coeliac
Travelling the coeliac way is hard work but there are a few steps you can take to make it easier on yourself.
Accommodation with a kitchen
In the UK, we had access to kitchens and cooking facilities because we rented a cottage and stayed with family. In Grenoble, we stayed at a hotel and this was a mistake. While the hotel was fine, the ability to cook for ourselves (or even refrigerate) was sorely missed particularly because the gluten free restaurants were so limited. From now on, we’ll be renting places with kitchens.
Whenever we go anywhere new, we plan – places to stay, things to do, food to eat! We research every new destination to find places I can safely eat. Google searches, restaurant reviews, blog posts – we look through everything we can to find and try to make sure we have a few restaurant options.
Snacks Snacks Snacks
If your restaurant options fall through, you need snacks. There is nothing worse than being hungry and not having anything to eat. To avoid this, take lots and lots of snacks. And take more than you’ll think you‘ll regret not having them if you need them!
Ibis Grenoble Centre
5, rue de Miribel, Les Trois Dauphins, Place Félix Poulat, 38000 Grenoble
(+33)4 7647 4849
Jardin du The
1 & 2 rue Millet, 38000 Grenoble
(+33)4 7627 0945
3, rue Jean-François Hache, 38000 Grenoble
(+33)4 7641 0199
O Bo Bun
17 Rue Saint-Jacques, 38000 Grenoble
(+33)4 7601 9481
24 Rue Lafayette, 38000 Grenoble
(+33)4 7654 3364
Rother Way, Chesterfield S41 0UB
Marks and Spencer