As a celiac disease sufferer, travel includes some extra complications that most people don’t have to deal with. Still, I love nothing more than seeing the world, so going through the extra effort to ensure that gluten free food is available is more than worth it. I’m not going to lie though, there are those moments when Ive been turned down by three restaurants in a row and I’m starving when I just feel like curling up into a little ball and giving up on the whole thing. Luckily, traveling while gluten free in France is not only easier than you might think, but it’s also a delight! I wanted to write about my recent experiences, some absolute gems I found while in France, and of course, plenty of helpful tips!
Flying, the airport, and arrival in Paris…
Let’s face it…airports suck when you have celiac disease. It doesn’t seem to matter where you are in the world, they just seem to have nothing but bread, bread products, breaded things, and of course…bread. Did I mention bread? My top tip for any celiac who wants to travel is to always pack plenty of gluten free snacks for your journey. There are a few things you should consider before you pack, however, such as food restrictions when going through airport security as well as any restrictions on bringing foods into your destination, but in general, I find that the more highly processed the food is, the less issues you’re going to have. It’s not much fun to chomp on gluten free pretzels for 10 hours, but it’s better than being hangry and you’ll thank yourself later. I actually wrote a whole piece about eating gluten free on a flight a while back that goes into this subject much more extensively, so definitely check that out for some tips on what to pack.
The other thing you should always do when booking your flights is to make sure to order a special meal with your airline before you go. Most major airlines have the option to order a special meal (options include gluten free, vegan, kosher, etc…) so make sure to arrange that when you book your flights. Sure, you’ll be given a sad rice cake with a rubbery piece of chicken while your husband (ahem ahem) is given bread, cheese, and some creamy risotto that looks simply dreamy compared to your sad rice cake, but you’ll still be thankful to have something to eat on that long-haul flight. (I did give him sad eyes until he gave me half of his cheese though).
Ok, so those general “flying long-haul” tips out of the way, let’s talk about Charles de Gaulle airport specifically. I was flying Air France, so when I left Paris to fly back to Los Angeles, I was located in terminal 2E. I can’t speak for the other terminals because I haven’t visited them, but hopefully this information will be helpful. Sadly, terminal 2E has minimal choices for food, but I am happy to report that they do in fact have some options for GF people. Rejoice! If you find yourself in this terminal, pass right by all the coffee shops and sandwich stands hawking their gluten-filled wares and get yourself to NAKED (by the way, looks like NAKED has some locations in other terminals at CDG as well, so definitely look for it no matter what terminal you’re in). Everything gluten free was labeled sans gluten, so it was easy to pick out my options. It may have been an odd breakfast, but I had some coconut chia pudding with mango topping as well as a quinoa salad, and I even purchased a gluten free muffin to take on the plane with me, which I happily devoured when Air France handed out a gluten-filled snack that I wasn’t able to participate in. They had a few other appealing options, including a curry dish, that were gluten free, so I would say this should be your first stop when you’re hungry and celiac at the airport in Paris.
A few Paris businesses I wanted to point out…
I actually did some pretty extensive research on gluten free places in Paris before I went because I wanted to make the most out of my experience. Sadly, I got so busy (and found it so easy to eat all around the city) that I didn’t end up visiting all of the places I had wanted to go, but I’ll include them in this list for you whether I visited them or not.
- Noglu– I stopped by this entirely gluten free bakery, patisserie, and cafe in Paris in order to sample some of their delicious wares, and I wasn’t disappointed. I had an absolutely delicious tarte au citron and got myself a couple of GF demi-baguettes for later and they were scrumptious!
- Chambelland– I never actually made it here, which I was actually a little sad about, because by all accounts it’s an incredibly delicious gluten free place in Paris. Oh well, something to look forward to for next time! Stop by if you’re in the area for mouth-watering gluten free baked goods.
- Kapunka – This Thai food restaurant was absolutely delicious, and entirely gluten free! I ate enough Pad Thai to be ashamed of my gluttony. Yummy!
- Le Caveau du Palais– This restaurant, while not entirely a gluten free facility, has a very good understanding of gluten free and has all their items that are safe marked on their menu. It’s a little more upscale than some of the other things I’ve listed, so check this place out when you’re in the market for a more fancy lunch or dinner. My husband had an incredible duck confit (I tasted it…it was GOOOOOD), and I had an amazing scallop dish, both of which were marked as gluten free on the menu. This place didn’t disappoint!
- Loulou Friendly Diner– This place, I will warn you…is a tourist restaurant. However, don’t let that deter you. They drew me in like a moth to a flame with their big sign advertising “gluten free options” out front, and I was glad to be drawn in, because the gluten free club sandwich I had was pretty good! You can find this restaurant across the river from Notre Dame, and it boasts some great views of the cathedral while you eat. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.
- Bateaux Parisiens Dinner Cruise – This was an incredible experience, and they were SO helpful in making sure my food was gluten free. I let them know when booking and also reminded my server when I arrived. He went over everything on the menu that was safe for me and even brought me a special gluten free dinner roll so I could have bread, too. This was one of the most incredible nights in Paris. It wasn’t cheap, but it was an amazing experience and this company took such good care of me.
These are just a few of the great options Paris has to offer for gluten free diners. Honestly, I didn’t find it to be difficult at all to find a good meal here, so whether you eat at one of these places or not, don’t be afraid to go to the land of bread and cheese…there are delights to be found!
Generally GF things to eat at restaurants in France…
The good news about France is that, in general, their awareness of gluten free and celiac disease seems to be pretty good. There was the one time when I asked a restaurant owner if they had any sans gluten options and she asked me if pasta was ok (run away!), but in general, when I mentioned sans gluten, I was met with a knowing nod and a smile and walked through what was safe on the menu. I did not get sick once during the entire trip. While there are whole restaurants and bakeries catering entirely to the gluten free community around France for you to discover, it’s also useful to know what kinds of things to look for so that you can find something to eat when trekking to those establishments isn’t exactly convenient. Here are some things I always found to be safe…
- Steak frites. Just make sure the frites (fries) aren’t cooked in oil with other things if you’re really sensitive, but otherwise this is always a safe option.
- Cheeses. Sure, you won’t be able to smear them on bread, but they are still really delicious on their own.
- Salads. There are a lot of great salads in Paris. As long as there aren’t any breads or croutons on it and the dressing is ok, you’re good to go! Most French restaurant salads are dressed in a mustard vinaigrette that is delicious and safe, but make sure to ask before you assume, just in case.
- Omelettes. Always a good option!
- Creme brûlée. This amazing French dessert also happens to be gluten free. Rejoice!
- Macarons. For the most part, these are safe. Just ask beforehand because occasionally they are mixed with wheat flour, but they usually are not as the recipe traditionally uses almond flour. The ones at Ladurée are safe for sure (I ate some), so eat up!
- Buckwheat Crêpes. Most crêperies will have buckwheat crepes in their ‘savory’ section of the menu, and as long as the crêpe is made with 100% buckwheat flour, you’re good to go. Some places will have sans gluten clearly marked on the menu, and others will not, so make sure to ask when in doubt as some places may mix the buckwheat flour with wheat flour. I ate some delicious buckwheat crêpes near Sacre Cœur one day in Paris, and some other amazing ones at a place in the historic district of Annecy.
I always try to stay in an Airbnb whenever possible when I travel, as it’s nice to have a kitchen where I can shop at the grocery store and prepare my own meals. The worldwide crackdowns on Airbnb are starting to make me a little nervous because I absolutely do not want to go back to the days of prepping sandwiches on top of a hotel room mini-fridge, although I will if need be. I was able to stay at either Airbnb properties or friend’s houses for the entirety of my recent trip to France, so I was quite lucky. That being said, you will find grocery stores to be a viable option for good no matter where you’re staying. I found that in almost every grocery store I went into in France, I was able to find gluten free products. The smaller stores usually had at the very least a few snacks labeled sans gluten, and the larger ones sometimes had entire sections where I was able to find sans gluten breads, crackers, cookies, and more. The ‘Bio’ (organic/health food) sections were especially fruitful for me. Grocery stores are also great places to pick up some fruits and vegetables, cheeses, deli meats, and other items to make sandwiches and snacks myself. Even if you’re staying in a regular hotel room, I highly recommend you stop by a grocery store if you’re feeling stuck because you’ll always find something that is safe here.
Things I loved in Annecy…
I ate picnics and home-cooked meals a lot in Annecy, as we were staying with friends, but we did go out to eat a few times and I had some fantastic gluten free foods!
The first place you absolutely must visit while in Annecy is Liber’Tart. It’s an entirely gluten free dedicated bakery. I stocked up on some bread and some very yummy treats (including another tarte au citron because I love them so much) here and it didn’t disappoint! Another place we tried and loved is Aux Crêperies Bretonnes La Bolée, in the old town area. The gluten free options were clearly marked on the menu and I was able to enjoy a delicious, gluten free buckwheat crepe full of cheese and tomatoes…yum!
We packed food with us a lot in Annecy as well as we had our friend’s kitchen, which was nice. The grocery stores always had some sans gluten bread available, so I was able to make plenty of sandwiches for picnics and have bread with my breakfast as well.
Another place that I loved, which is not an entirely gluten free facility, but still had an amazing meal at, was La ferme de la Charbonnière, a small, family-owned farm with a restaurant on site. It’s not in the town center so you’ll need a car (or an Uber) to get there, and the place was packed with locals, not tourists. We had the advantage of visiting friends who lived there so we could find out about this place. It was amazing! They make their own cheeses right there at the farm and you can have the fresh, amazing cheese right there in their restaurant. I had the raclette dinner, which was entirely gluten free other than the baguette they served. I didn’t eat the baguette (or get anywhere near it) but I was able to enjoy fresh melted raclette over potatoes with meats and a salad. I also sampled more cheeses as they brought around a cheese board, and the dinner finished off with fresh ice cream. It was an absolutely incredible dinner. Make sure you brush up on a little French or bring your Google Translate app with you at least though, because as this place was not geared towards tourists, you may have a little trouble getting by in just English. Definitely worth it though! This was one of the highlights of my trip.
Annecy was a smaller city, but was absolutely gorgeous and honestly one of my favorite places in France. Definitely check it out if you get the chance! I’ll write a blog post specifically about Annecy later so I can describe some of the amazing things I saw and did there. 🙂
Things I loved in Strasbourg…
Our final stop in France was a few days spent in Strasbourg. By this point of the trip we were a little lighter in the wallet and a little more tired, so we stocked up at the grocery store, which had plenty of gluten free options, and we had frequent picnics along the side of the canals. We did, of course, eat out on several occasions. There’s a restaurant in Strasbourg called La Pause Quinoa, which had all of their gluten free options clearly marked on the menu. I ate here several times. Another good one is L’Eden Sans Gluten, which is a completely gluten free facility. There’s also L’Eden Libre de Gluten, which is more of a bakery. I stocked up on pastries and baguettes there and chowed down!
Some helpful tips and information…
Knowing how to speak a little bit of French and communicate my need for gluten free foods came in extremely handy on many occasions while in France, but even if you don’t speak a word of French…don’t worry! Look for ‘sans gluten’ on menus in restaurants, carry with you a French Gluten Free Restaurant Card, and show it to servers when you’re unable to communicate your needs properly. Many servers in the tourist areas do usually speak English anyway, but in case they don’t, the restaurant card will let them know what you need and they will be able to point out what is safe on the menu.
One thing I would highly recommend is that you download an app for your phone called Find Me Gluten Free. This app is wonderful and helped me to locate places serving up gluten free foods in my area so I wouldn’t have to spend so much time searching. (You can also just use their website to search if you can’t download the app for whatever reason). I used it all over France and plan on using it on my future travels and even around home as well. I told another friend who was traveling through Germany at the same time as my France trip about the app and she sent me back a picture of a wonderful looking GF pizza she found with the app. It’s the best! I recommend it to every celiac or gluten intolerant individual as it makes life so much easier (and more delicious)!
What have your experiences been traveling through France while gluten free? Any additional tips or great places to eat we should know about? I would love to hear about it in the comments!