Yes, the City of Love. With the husband. It was amazing!
To be honest, I actually went to Paris because of work. And decided to put off going home for another two nights and enjoy Paris in the spring time.
My preparations were vast. I researched the internet and typed up a huge document with screenshots and contact information as well as opening hours of gluten-free eateries. I only took half of the notes with me, as my printer only spit out half of them and I was so rushed that I didn’t notice something was missing until my stay in Paris was half-way over. This is just to give you an idea of how obsessive I can get about preparing things and that I couldn’t have visited all the wonderful places offering gluten-free food, even this had been my intention.
I also brought food with me. Just in case. Upon advice of someone who has been travelling gluten-free since 1999, I ended up taking only half the things I had originally planned. Nonetheless, I only ended up really needing three items: two buns (for one of the three breakfasts), mozzarella strings and a small package of jam. This was a shame not only because I ended up carrying bread, salty lye sticks and soy sausages from Cologne to Paris and back, but also because I had no space on my suitcase going from Paris to Cologne and had to rely on the space in my husband’s suitcase for all the goodies I found at Franprix and Naturalia (plus having to hear over and over again how he had to lug it around for six hundred kilometers).
I was also equipped with some so-so French skills, and I think they were the key to my gluten-free, vegetarian success. The French love it when you speak French with them. To give them credit, I have been to Paris twice and both times Parisians did not live up to their reputation of being awfully unfriendly, horrible people. On the contrary, I always found help whenever I needed it and everyone I encountered was kind, open-minded, fun and very welcoming. I also think that the French have long evolved from being a nation in which French is the only proper language in the entire universe. People replied to me in English (even when I had addressed them in French first) more than just one time, and the receptionist at our hotel was kind of sad that I wouldn’t help him practice his German. For me, it’s wonderful to practice this beautiful language and it was great to spend four days speaking French whenever possible and if I ever give up on my Italian class, I can very well see myself doing an advanced French course to get back into the groove.
Now I am back in Cologne, and have been suffering a terrible case of the post-travel-blues all week. I just finished editing my Paris pictures for the blog. There’s 101. And there’s hardly any monuments or non-food shots. Crazy. No way I’m putting all of them on the blog and no way those that make it will go into a single entry. So today, I’ll write about eating lunch two times at Novotel Paris Est (which is in Bagnolet) and having a fab dinner on a cruise on the Seine organized by Bateaux Parisiens.
Concerning my attempts to communicate with all the places I would eat prior to my departure (at least those not offering gluten-free options rightout): I had emailed Novotel Paris Est prior to my arrival. Twice – long before I actually went. And I obtained no answer. My friend Helene (whom you will meet in another blog entry, tomorrow) offered to call and found out that they would be willing to cook a separate meal if need be and that someone would show me around the breakfast buffet. I packed my snacks while still in Germany and thought I would be eating those while everyone gorged themselves at the buffet, because an answer such as that was too vague for my taste. Once I got to the buffet, I realized that I would need help. Luckily, I had printed very precise instructions on how to prepare gluten-free meals off the file-section at Zöliakie Austausch in French and a list of the 14 official allergens in French off the EU-website. With the help of these documents and my so-so French skills I was able to negotiate contact with the server, who put me in touch with the head waiter, who put me in touch with someone on staff, who then spoke with the kitchen. They prepared me a salad with dijon dressing and then followed up with fried mushrooms, mashed celery and steamed vegetables. For dessert, I ate a pear off the fruit buffet. It was a wonderful and light lunch! I couldn’t believe my luck, really!
Before I left, I made sure to speak with the head waiter, who promised that he would be waiting for me with gluten-free, vegetarian food the next day for lunch.
In the evening, before dinner, I grew nervous. Before we left, I ate a muffin in my hotel room just in case, and then set off. Before we boarded the boat just beneath the Eiffel Tower, I spoke with the maître d’, who was a bit miffed at my question, but who told me that I would be eating a courgette soup, vegetables and fruit salad. It was true.
First up was soup. It was cold (on purpose), but also very creamy in the sense that it had just the right amount of liquid. The soup had tiny slices of baby zucchini on the bottom and I hugely enjoyed eating it. The waiter then brought me fried leek, artichokes, sugar peas and one green artichoke spear in what I think was a very light and very peppery Bernaise sauce. It was accompanied by mashed potatoes in a small pot. It was only later that I realized that everyone’s meal was gluten-free (meat, mashed potatoes, raw salmon and spring vegetables)– except for the baguettes (my neighbor was happy when I gifted him with mine). For dessert, I had a sliced up pear (we meet again!) while everyone else had a small tartelette. I hear the meat was not so good (kind of overcooked), but everyone seemed to enjoy all other components of the meal. The pear slices covered up a chopped up Granny Smith apple, which was floating in orange juice. It was a really great dinner, but I obviously don’t have tell you that the experience of the cruise on the Seine at night in itself was pretty amazing. The picture opportunities were endless. I felt incredibly lucky and very grateful to be there and to see it all with my own eyes. I’m sure all the wine and the good company helped, but I greatly enjoyed myself and can really recommend this event if you can afford it.
The next day, I faced the challenge of eating breakfast. I found the toaster (the head waiter had promised me there would be one), and then got to work with my toastabag. I stood guard while I heated the buns one by one (luckily I only had to explain myself to someone who knows about allergies) and immediately understood why they are delivered in pairs. You can use both slots and don’t need to be panicky about someone else using the second slot. My other toastabag is at my in-laws home, so I will be buying a new pair for travelling. I was glad to have brought my own cheese and jam, because I only ended up finding the packaged up versions of these items after I had already finished breakfast.
At noon, just as he had promised, the head waiter was waiting with a salad plate and brought it to my table. The salad was followed up with mashed potatoes, fried zucchini in herbs and steamed green beans and carrots. For dessert I had a rushed coffee. I then set out to meet my husband, who picked me up at Galieni metro station. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s report featuring a visit to NoGlu and Helmut Newcake – both gluten-free places!