Top ten tips for gluten-free travel to Paris
This could also be called "Doing Paris on a Reasonable Budget."
1. Rent an apartment with a functioning refrigerator and stove. Having a freezer and oven are great too! We were traveling with another couple, so we got a two bedroom apartment for $1,400 for a full week in the 18th arrondissement, the neighborhood called Montmartre not too far from the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. It was close to two subway stops and an excellent bus line, so even though it wasn’t right across the street from the Louvre, it was easy to get to the places we wanted to go. Plus, it was near cute shops, a grocery store, and had that local neighborhood charm. (We found our place through a friend, but I recommend that you check out Vacation Rental by Owner— www.vrbo.com – to find a place. Make sure it is REALLY two-bedroom though, not one bedroom and a couch in the living room if you need a place that size.) But the key reason the apartment was great was that I could make my own breakfast and pack snacks or an interesting second meal for when we were out and about. My key rule is always know where your next meal or snack is coming from, and when in an unfamiliar city without a great command of the language, having your own food is critical.
2. Request the special meal on the plane, but have your own too. Here's the place to find info for American Airelines. We flew US Air, but it has since been acquired by American Airlines, so your experience may be different. Back then (and maybe still) they offered a gluten-free special meal, but nothing for gluten-free vegetarians, so if you are a vegetarian like me, you will certainly want to pack your own food anyway. [This was also my experience on a 2018 trip to South Korea.] On the way there I traded my fish for my friend’s fruit salad. On the way home, I ate the rice but left the chicken breast. The main meal they served, if you are omnivorous, looked pretty good. Their supplemental snack near the end of the flights was a pretty sad affair by anyone’s standards.
3. In addition to your food for the plane, pack gluten-free provisions. I packed plenty of gluten-free on-the-go-type foods in the suitcase that I checked which was great, since navigating label-reading at the grocery store and finding equivalent products the health food store were a bit of a challenge. Udi’s bagels were handy (I also packed my toaster sleeve!) And one thing to note: Parisians apparently don’t eat peanut butter. I finally found it at the health food store Naturalia, but it looked like an import from Germany. Go figure!
4. That said, find the Monoprix (grocery store) and Naturalia and various outdoor markets to see what culinary life in Paris is like, and to buy cheese and veggies etc (Monoprix and markets) and any gluten-free crackers or cereal or whatever to have on hand (Naturalia).
5. Take a cutting board and appropriate utensils. Our apartment was great, but the cutting boards and spoons were all wooden and could have been a big source of cross-contamination. I made due without getting a new cutting board, but I did buy a plastic spatula that I could use on the non-stick pans without worry. I brought it home and now I think of Paris every time I use it.
6. Before you go, get/make a list of gluten-free friendly restaurants by arrondissement, with notes about hours and days, and follow them on Facebook. I didn’t realize until I got there that arrondissement number = zipcode. For example, the Louvre in the 1st arrondissement which is in 75001. This made it much easier to identify our likely lunch or dinner venue based on what we were going to be doing that day. Be sure to double check their hours. Unsurprisingly, their websites and Facebook pages are IN FRENCH, so I goofed a couple of times and took us to restaurants that weren’t open. Since I don’t speak French I was reluctant to call ahead. Get over this fear and save yourself many extra miles on your already tired feet! Carry your list around with you.
7. Get a weekly Paris Metro (public transportation) pass. For around 24 euros, you can go everywhere. This gets you to and from your apartment to museums and those far flung gluten-free dining gems. If you are from a city and are familiar with subways, it’s actually easier to use than many. Here’s a website that explains it: http://parisbytrain.com/paris-train-metro-week-pass-navigo-decouverte/
8. Have a plan each day. It’s much less stressful if you know when and where your meals are coming from each day. Even if you don’t decide until the night before or the morning of, have a concrete picture of how you expect to get your nutritional needs met safely. If you don’t plan and get hungry while you are out and about, you are more likely to make risky decisions.
9. Plan for picnics. Paris is loaded with great parks, gardens and random green spaces. Take advantage of them! Be one of those people who lounge about, looking tranquil and eating apple slices with brie and drinking sparkling water. We planned a picnic and happened upon a flash dance mob (that conjures an image, doesn’t it?) Actually we think it was just an outdoor dance rehearsal in a park, but it was fun to watch and a really excellent Paris experience.
10. Take pictures of the food, the place and the menu to help you remember where you had the best success. Post them on-line! Sell your list on Fiverr.com! Tell others in the gluten-free community where you had success so that we can live vicariously through you and we can collectively have pleasantly memorable international travel experience.
10/17/2012 08:53:00 am
I checked out your fb page and I was so happy to find out that eating out in Paris could be so fun. All the pics of the food had me drooling. I've visited Paris a few times (before going gf) and had a blast. The architecture had me feeling like I was in another world, I loved it. Great write up!
10/17/2012 12:14:40 pm
Thanks, Andrew! I was a little worried before we went, but it all turned out great. I can't wait to type up my restaurant reviews and recommendations.
10/17/2012 02:41:00 pm
I think this was written for me! I've just started learning French in anticipation of a birthday trip to France in about a year and a half. This is one of my dream trips but was getting nervous about GF travel even if I do manage to get a grasp of the language. Thank you so much for sharing!!
10/17/2012 10:07:53 pm
I was nervous about the food too! I'd be happy to visit with you to tell you more about what it was like.
7/16/2013 02:27:27 am
Thank you for taking the time to write this! this is very nice and informative for me.
3/31/2014 07:16:58 am
3/31/2014 08:25:29 am
How wonderful! You'll have a great time, I'm sure. By budget recommendations, do you mean how much you should plan to spend per meal? We kept it fairly affordable by eating only one serious meal at a restaurant a day. We did the other meals with groceries from a supermarket or farmers market either at the apartment or on-the-go. The restaurant No Glu was pricey (lunch would have run upwards of $50 apiece), but the other places we ate were more affordable, in the $12-$15 price range.) Gratuity is covered, for the most part. I'd say we spent $25-$40 a day apiece in meals, groceries, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. Helpful?
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