After deliberating over whether or not to write a blog, how to start it if I did and whether anyone would actually want to read it I decided to just take the plunge and go for it. There are so many potential blog posts that I can write about London having worked there for the last 7 years that I decided to start a bit smaller! Having just returned from an overnight trip to Paris, my second trip within a few months this seemed like the perfect starting point.
With a love of travel, I could not resist booking a trip to Paris in October with my boyfriend, Paul when I saw a really cheap deal on Eurostar. Between that and two free nights from Hotels.com that I had saved my long weekend cost us less than £100 each, bargain! I love finding travel deals and struggle not to give into the temptation, although I am somewhat restricted by my annual leave which may in actual fact be a good thing!
Friday night – Pizza Express and Premier Inn stay near London St Pancras
Working in London, I have no idea why I’d not done it earlier as with the train from Kings Cross St Pancras to Paris taking only 2 1/4 hours it’s really easy. As we both commute into London from Milton Keynes, we did add to our costs and decided to stay in London after work on the Friday night so that there wasn’t the travel to London to contend with early on the Saturday morning. We were so glad we did this, staying at The Premier Inn at Kings Cross meant a hassle free Saturday morning. It is also conveniently located next to a Pizza Express where it is so easy to grab a quick gluten free dinner, something we did after work on the Friday to kick off our weekend with gluten free dough balls, pizza and a large glass of wine! For me anyway – Paul’s were all the normal gluten version! (Note: Premier Inn London Euston is only a few minutes walk away so book into whichever Premier Inn is cheaper).
M&S – Kings Cross St Pancras
Everything about the Eurostar was really easy and much less hassle than flying as it leaves from Central London and you only have to be there 45 minutes before. I can also recommend Marks and Spencer in St Pancras to pick up food for whilst you’re on the Eurostar (This includes prepackaged sandwiches that have recently been added to the meal deal, winner!)
Hyatt hotel, Madeleine Paris
Nearest Metro – St Augustin, line 9
Arriving in Gare du Nord also means that you are straight into a fairly central location and straight onto the Metro. We stayed at the Hyatt hotel due to the value of our free nights and really liked it with comfortable rooms and great location. We very rarely add breakfast to the hotel as I like to eat out and experience the local food, especially when it is normally cheaper. In Paris there are so many great places and bakeries that have popped up gluten free that I felt a hotel breakfast would have wasted an opportunity to try one!
http://www.helmutnewcake.com (Nearest Metro – Havre Caumartin, line 9)
Arriving at our hotel about 3pm and having eaten food on the Eurostar we headed straight out to pick up pastries from Helmut Newcake. I’d seen so many delicious looking eclairs posted on instragram I absolutely could not wait to try them, and Helmut Newcake was very conveniently located near our hotel! This 100% gluten free patisserie was amazing with all sorts of treats lined up that it’s impossible to know what to pick. Paul always says I should just pick one thing as I always go a bit crazy in places like this and want to eat everything! This of course did not happen, and for the two of us it was two salted caramel eclairs (this was one thing I was not willing to share!), a lemon meringue tart and a chocolate fontenay.
The Eiffel Tower
http://www.toureiffel.paris (Recommend the Trocedero stop and walk down to the Tower, lines 6 and 9)
I did manage to resist temptation long enough though to travel with them to the Trocedero. This is the best view of the Eiffel Tower so we sat looking at it, taking in the view and eating our delicious treats, and that’s when I felt like I was in Paris! I love seeing the main attraction as the first stop to really feel like you’re in the city. The eclairs and fontenay were lush and a definite must eat whilst in the city! I liked the lemon meringue tart too but Paul as a gluten eater was not too keen as it fell apart when eating it. With the eclairs, if they hadn’t been bought from a 100% gluten free bakery you would be questioning whether in fact they were indeed gluten free!
Next up was climbing the Eiffel Tower. For this I’d booked online from the UK and I can not stress how much I recommend doing that. It does restrict you as you have to book a time but that was worth it as when we got to the Eiffel Tower the queues were crazy, I don’t think I’d ever seen queues so long and we were totally put off going. Then in the corner we spotted a sign for prebooked tickets so went and asked. Jackpot we had to wait ten minutes until our ticket time and then went straight in. Paul was so so grateful for me being organised at that point and I’m pretty sure without it we wouldn’t have bothered to go up. It’s great going up the Eiffel Tower and having the experience but for me I loved it more at the Trocedero where you can actually see the Eiffel Tower, so if you haven’t prebooked and don’t want to bother with the lengthy queues head there instead!
Le P’tit Troquet
Facebook page but no website (Nearest Metro – Ecole Militaire, line 8)
Back to food, eating out gluten free in Paris if you want breakfast, lunch or an amazing pastry it seems to have become fairly easy with several options. Eating out at night for dinner though was far trickier with everything closing early. (Really watch out for opening times in Paris as some of the cafes and restaurants operate strange opening times and close some weekdays). I really struggled when researching to find anywhere for the Saturday night for a gluten free nice dinner. In the end I found Le P’tit Troquet (I think through the find me gluten free app which was backed up by excellent trip advisor reviews) which had gluten free marked on the menu and at about a ten minute walk from the Eiffel Tower was the ideal location so this is where I booked and hoped for the best. I was so glad I did, this quirky French restaurant had it all! Somewhere I would never have found or gone into as off the main tourist path it was somewhat of a gem of a restaurant for both food and service and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it! I had a goats cheese starter and sea bream main and Paul had the fois gras starter and beef bourguignon. We both had the creme brûlée for dessert. Every course was delicious and a reasonable fixed price of 35 euro each for three courses. They even had gluten free bread and having washed it all down with a glass of wine I had no complaints at all about the food. I was worried about cross contamination but the food didn’t make me ill and they did their best to reassure me it was gluten free (make sure you check for yourself if you try this restaurant, gluten free is marked as a starting point but it isn’t a gluten free restaurant).
Champ Elysee and Laduree
http://www.laduree.com (Nearest Metro George V, line 1)
From here we decided to head to the Champs Elysees and have a walk to walk off some of the dinner and to see the Arch de Triomphe. We unfortunately just missed being able to go up it but Paul wasn’t fussed as in his opinion it was ‘just a roundabout’ but I really liked it all lit up. We also went to Laduree – well when in Paris! – macarons have to be eaten! We were too full to contemplate eating them there and then which says a lot about all the food we had just eaten so we bought a few and took them back to the hotel to try.
Macarons are simply amazing and generally made of almond flour (always double check!) so are perfect for coeliacs and taste like heaven. The macarons didn’t last as long the next day, we ate them before we left the hotel! They were gorgeous, you have to get some if you’re in Paris. My favourite had to be pistachio but Paul preferred the fruity ones especially the cherry. (If you’d prefer to buy them from somewhere 100% gluten free I noticed that Biosphere Cafe were selling macarons in their dessert counter).
Marche Bastille and Chambelland Bakery
http://www.chambelland.com (Nearest Metro – Parmentier, line 3)
We decided to go to the big Sunday market at Bastille. Despite being coeliac I absolutely love markets, the buzz and atmosphere is great especially here where all the locals were out shopping. Some markets in London have become the best places to find gluten free treats that you just never know what you will find! There was a band playing at the entrance that really picked up everyone’s mood on the way in, before they even got to the food! We used to holiday in France when we were children, with my dad having a huge passion for food and cooking you could see why. So much delicious food just waiting to be bought! We got some Brie, olives, meat and tomatoes and Paul got a gluteny baguette before I dragged him to Chambelland to get my bread! In hindsight we should have done this the other way round as once we had all this food all we wanted to do was eat it! However we were patient and walked to Chambelland the next bakery on my ‘must visit when in Paris’ list. The queue was out the door which I could only take as a good sign, with an American mum and daughter in the queue behind us eagerly discussing what they were going to buy! I ended up with a lemon meringue tart, a chocolate soufflé type cake, bread which can only be described as a huge slab and some sweet bread. I could have taken one of everything quite happily! However we had enough of a feast and walked about fifteen minutes to a local park where we sat and ate as much as we could! The bread was some of the best I’d had gluten free and was divine with the Brie. The lemon meringue tart I preferred to the one from Helmut Newcake as didn’t crumble like theirs and the meringue was amazing. The chocolate cake was rich and squidgy. Yum!
http://www.louvre.fr (Nearest Metro – Palais-Royal-Musee du Louvre, Line 1)
We headed from here to an afternoon at the Louvre. We aren’t massive museum fans and can get bored quite quickly in them but felt the Louvre had to be done as the glass pyramid and the Mona Lisa were iconic sights. We spent a few hours here, you could spend all day, the place is huge but we were glad we did it!
Gemini Les Halles
http://www.restaurantgemini.fr (Nearest Metro – Chatelet, line 4 although a huge station joining lots of other lines, we walked a long way to get out of this station!)
Before going to Paris I asked for a restaurant recommendation for the Sunday night from instagrammer Bacididama_gf who is based in Paris as I was struggling to find somewhere. Her recommendation? – pizza! We weren’t sure at first as we were only in Paris a couple of days we would have preferred French food but struggling with options, having overdosed on rich food the Saturday night and at all the cafes and Paul being a massive pizza fan we decided to go for it and really enjoyed it. The pizzas were fab, one of the best I’d had and for dessert there was Nutella pizza. Oh my days, what a creation that you must try! Paul with a far less sweet tooth than me liked it but found even sharing that half a pizza was a bit much for him, but for me and my sweet tooth it went down a treat!
http://www.moulinrouge.fr (Nearest Metro – Blanche, line 2)
We went to the 9pm showing of Moulin Rouge. With mixed reviews this was something I was unsure about especially as tickets aren’t cheap. We decided to go for it and are glad we did. Yes the show was a bit tacky and over the top, but we enjoyed the evening. We bought standard tickets as felt we couldn’t justify the VIP prices and was worried about how good our view would be. We lucked out at the front of a table we had a clear view. Others joined our table though so I guess it’s a bit pot luck who’s sitting in front of you, we were also sideways on so at times not the most comfortable especially as there isn’t a lot of space.
Sacre Coeur and Montmartre
On the Monday morning I was very disappointed to find that my sweet bread despite being wrapped had gone rock hard! Maybe don’t buy too much from Chambelland as it didn’t keep too well. We headed from the hotel to Sacre Coeur where we climbed to the top for views over Paris. A somewhat grey and miserable morning it wasn’t the best view possible but it was still worth seeing. We also enjoyed wandering around Montmartre and picking up some souvenirs. The only thing we didn’t enjoy was getting hassled on the path up to the Sacre Coeur to buy things as the guys were quite persistant. They were also a bit intimidating lining themselves up across the path so there was no way up except to walk through them and that was definitely off putting.
Notre Dame Cathedral and Yummy and Guilt Free
http://www.yummyandguiltfree.com (Nearest Metro – Hotel du Ville, line 1 and 11)
From here we headed to the Notre Dame cathedral and the surrounding area. We also went off in search of Yummy and guilt free which I’d read did gluten free waffles. When we got to the place on google maps it looked like it had gone and been replaced by a BHV Homme Department store so I wasn’t too happy! However it turned out to be a little cart around the back of the shop so don’t be fooled if you go looking for waffles! They were indeed yummy although I’m not so sure about the guilt free part! They looked beautiful, mine was filled with cheesecake flavoured cream.
http://www.noglu.fr (Nearest Metro – Grands Boulevard, lines 8 and 9)
As much as I eat out gluten free I’m a bit more cautious about my choices ahead of getting on public transport and we were travelling home that afternoon. On that rationale we decided to have lunch at No Glu so that I could have a hot meal without any worry. I’d heard a lot about No Glu and had been disappointed that I hadn’t made it to the New York branch when on holiday there. We managed to get a table but booking would be advisable as it isn’t that big. However, the service was extremely slow. The choices were limited to three and they surprisingly mostly made up of food that was naturally gluten free. When visiting gluten free places I like to make the most of it so that was a disappointment to me. I was even less impressed when my fish dish turned up on beetroot which I really dislike through miss translating the menu board that was only in French (my mistake not theirs). Fortunately for me I have a boyfriend who will eat anything and he lovingly swapped his burger and fries for my meal. The food was really good but expensive so I don’t think No Glu is a place I’d hurry back to anytime soon. I did pick up an amazing chocolate tart though from the No Glu bakery opposite.
Second trip to Paris
With the ease of the Eurostar and cheap prices, my best friend and I decided to head to Paris for an overnight trip on our days off (we work five days out of seven and not Monday to Friday which makes cheap mid week deals possible using no leave).
Holiday Inn Paris Opera, Grands Boulevards (Nearest Metro – Grand Boulevard, lines 8 and 9)
We headed to Paris on the Eurostar deal and booked into an Ibis for £96 with breakfast included that seemed very reasonable. It was a similar area to the Hyatt which I knew was close to Helmut Newcake! However when we got to the Ibis they’d overbooked and wanted us to move to the Holiday Inn which did not go down well. As someone who normally stays in a hotel in London once a week this happens quite a lot and normally means being moved in my experience to a rubbish hotel. However in this case it went in our favour. The Grands Boulevard metro was right outside the Holiday Inn which was perfect and the beds were amazingly comfortable. I’d recommend this as a hotel to stay at for a reasonable price point in an excellent location. At check in they asked us if we wanted a street view, I asked for the quietest room and for this we were given a room not overlooking the street so something to bear in mind if you’re a light sleeper. I also did not know that this hotel was so close to No Glu until I googled Metro stations for this blog or I would have dropped by for some pastries from the bakery!
http://www.biospherecafe.fr (Nearest Metro – St Augustin, line 9)
We headed out for a late lunch and tried Biosphere Cafe. My friend is vegetarian which added to our dietary requirements. Biosphere Cafe had a great lunch menu of quiche, soup and gallettes and is 100% gluten free. I had a bacon, mushroom and cheese gallette which was really good. We couldn’t resist dessert as there was a counter of pastries and cakes just looking at us! I had a Paris Brest and loved the hazelnut cream. My friend had the tiramisu. I’m not a coffee fan so that’s never my first choice but this ended up being more of a caramel based tiramisu and wow was it good! The service in this Cafe was friendly and efficient and they even got us to taste test some pastry that they’d made for a new product, we were happy to oblige!
http://www.galerieslafayette.com (Nearest Metro – Chaussee d’Antin -La Fayette, lines 7 and 9)
We headed from here to lafayettes galleries the French department store I’d read about having amazing views from the top. The dome ceiling in the store is also absolutely beautiful. We headed to the top fully intending to get a drink in the champagne bar. However when we got up there it was so cold that we just looked at the view and came back inside. I’m sure in the summer this is a great spot but for the conditions we didn’t want to spend 30 euros between us on champagne and be miserable in the cold! We also bought some huge scarves in the sale on the way out of the department store so they still got our money!
Trocedero and the Sparkling Eiffel Tower
We too headed to the Trocedero as our first stop that evening, it was a clearer night than when I’d visited in October and the Eiffel Tower is beautiful all lit up. We also timed it perfectly, arriving just in time for it to sparkle at 6pm. Once dark on the hour the Eiffel Tower sparkles! This should not be missed as it is a truly magical sight! Be warned though standing up on the Trocedero it was so open that in the harsh January weather it was absolutely freezing. Make sure you wrap up with lots of layers.
Gluten free and Vegetarian Dinner
Having had problems with finding a gluten free evening restaurant previously, it was even worse when we also needed it to cater for a vegetarian as every menu we looked at was all meat! In frustration we looked up the le P’tit Troquet and found that to be the same – an all meat menu. However we read some reviews that said the chef had made them something vegetarian when they asked so we decided to risk it. I’m so glad we did as I had another fantastic meal, this time of fois gras, a wonderful scallop risotto and then a thick, creamy indulgent bowl of chestnut mousse. The menu had changed a bit since the last time which was good to try some different dishes and I could not tell you which course I preferred they were all amazing and I was so full when we left. The changes weren’t so good for my friend as they no longer had the goats cheese starter. However, she was made the pumpkin soup (it was meant to come with fois gras so that was just not added), they made her a mushroom risotto that was not on the menu with some other vegetable sides and then she had the creme brûlée. Considering there was nothing on the menu for her she left full and raving about the food so another thumbs up for this place!
Holiday Inn Breakfast
Despite what I said at the start of this blog about hotel breakfasts, we decided to have a lazier morning and just get the hotel breakfast, as it was a trip taken on our days off work without any leave we know that we can often over do things cramming in city breaks! The breakfast was fairly standard – meat, cheese, some pastries and bread and a hot selection with the usual scrambled egg, bacon and mushrooms. They did however have boiled eggs as an option so I had that – amusing to serve as there were no egg cups so assume they are meant to be hard boiled (you time it yourself) rather than the soft boiled eggs that we made! I also had some ham, cheese along with a natural yoghurt with honey. I wished I’d bought myself some bread whilst at helmut newcake!
Big Bus Tour
http://www.bigbustours.com (Lots of Metro stops close to stops but Pyramides is on lines 7 and 14. There are two bus tour routes and this is the interchange stop where you can join either).
We decided to do the Sightseeing bus as we only had a few hours – my friend having not been to Paris before wanted to cram as much as she could into our visit. This was a good choice as the weather was far too cold to be outside for long so meant we saw more than we would have done otherwise. We were going to do the tour the night before as an evening bus tour as the leaflet we had said they had a 9:30pm tour to see Paris lit up. However when we got to the ticket office the lady pretty much laughed at us and said that it didn’t run in winter. She wasn’t particularly nice about it or offer any alternatives so we went with a different company in the morning – the Big Bus company. Instead Tuesday night was spent wandering the Champ Elysees with a trip to Laduree.
Bears and Raccoons
http://www.bearsandraccoons.com (Nearest Metro – Voltaire, line 9)
When we got off the bus we were freezing cold so stopped in a cafe for a hot wine – I can see why mulled wine is so popular in Europe! We also went to Bears and Raccoons where we picked up some sandwiches for the eurostar journey home. They were absolutely amazing! Such a lovely and welcoming cafe that had lots of vegetarian and vegan options. I picked the River Run which was smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese, lemon juice, dill and chives and truly awesome! I think I’ll try and recreate this at some point. The bread was so good and didn’t fall apart at all. Sandwiches alone were about 8 euros but I got the 11 euro deal which was a sandwich, can of drink and one of their cookies. I wish I’d bought two of the sandwiches to have another one the next day!
After a couple of quick trips to Paris I love the city, there is so much to see and do and so much to eat. Most of the people we came across were really friendly and I can’t wait for another excuse to go back. I have to as I need more salted caramel eclairs, the absolute stand out item of everything I tried in this beautiful city!
Some other places found during my research that I haven’t yet tried that are on the list for next time:
* Thank you my deer, another gluten free cafe http://www.thankyoumydeer.com
*Breizh cafe, a cafe that does 100% buckwheat, and therefore gluten free, galettes but isn’t a gluten free establishment so you will need to check for cross contamination controls. I ate at the branch in Kyoto twice and didn’t get sick. They cleaned the equipment and cooked mine first but I have no experience if the same is done in Paris but the food was great! http://www.breizhcafe.com
*My Free Kitchen A gluten free restaurant that’s open in the evenings http://www.myfreekitchen.com
*I’m hoping my next trip will be in the summer so it’s warm enough to enjoy a river trip on the Seine!
Some great resources on gluten free in Paris:
*Searching gluten free Paris brings up a lot of options across the city showing how many gluten free cafes there now are in Paris
*Some awesome blogs that include posts on Paris are:
*More of my photos can be found on my Instagram #thesightseeingcoeliac – posts can be filtered to #thesightseeingcoeliacparis
Where else would you recommend? Please leave it in the comments as with the ease of the Eurostar I’m sure I’ll go again once I find myself a cheap deal – I just can’t resist! I hope this helps anyone thinking about visiting Paris just to go for it, you won’t be missing out on bread and pastries as I feared when I first started to plan my trip to Paris, quite the opposite in fact when I actually had to work out how to fit all the different cafes and options into my short itinerary! It doesn’t mean I didn’t longingly look at all the baguettes and croissants that the city are famous for but I managed to find plenty of amazing food to keep me preoccupied and very happy!