2022 in Review: Travel Favourites – The Sightseeing Coeliac

In 2020 I decided to write a travel wishlist, and we now know how that year turned out for travel so in 2021 I avoided writing a similar post (especially as I could reuse the 2020 list). Instead I decided to take inspiration from Sarah who writes the Endless Distances blog and post a travel review for the previous year which I loved writing and taking time to reflect on my travel, and of course the best gluten free eats from around the World.

2022 has personally been a difficult year for me in my personal life which seems important to note, as I basically write a highlights reel from the year as I’ve still done some amazing trips. Since covid lockdowns we have been travelling with the aim to tick off some of our bucket list, which has helped us decide where to go this year and has led to some huge highlights but if you’re reading this then please know we tend to only share the highlights online, and never the full story and I can definitely attest to that.

So, let’s get started – where did I go?

2022 Travels

Athens – Greece, February

We loved spending a long weekend in Athens in February where it was warm enough to sit outside drinking frappes and escape the cold UK for a few days. Paul loves history so we thought it would be a great city break. However, it was a strange trip landing in Athens as news broke about Russia invading Ukraine so it actually felt very strange enjoying ourselves at this time.

I would recommend a winter long weekend to escape the cold and the crowds, but you can easily see the sights on a day or two stop over on the way to the Greek Islands especially if you aren’t travelling from Europe. We found enough gluten free options for a fantastic weekend and my gluten free guide to Athens has been my most read post this year on the blog!

Rotterdam to Amsterdam – Netherlands, April

I’ve had visiting the tulip fields in the Netherlands on my bucket list for years, so we finally got around to visiting The Netherlands in April. We travelled by Eurostar to Rotterdam, where we then hired a car to visit so many sights and cities between Rotterdam and Amsterdam where we ended our trip by meeting friends to celebrate Paul’s birthday. We visited The Hague, Utrecht, Efteling Theme Park, The coast and Keukenhof Botanical Gardens. We absolutely loved our time in the country and I really need to get around to writing up my gluten free guides!

Dubrovnik to Pula – Croatia, June

You may have realised by now that we aren’t very good at staying in one place when we go on holiday but instead love hiring a car and getting off the beaten track. Croatia is a country that we love, having been twice before – once on a long weekend to Dubrovnik, and once to Rovinj, Pula, Rijeka, Hvar and Split.

This time we decided to hire a car as we wanted to tick Plitvice Lakes off the bucket list and see where we ended up, booking the accommodation on the day as we needed it. We flew to Dubrovnik with nothing booked other than car hire, and a flight returning from Pula ten days later.

We ended up visiting Dubrovnik for lunch after landing, before staying the night near Lapad beach and driving up to Split. Split is somewhere that you really should visit out of season if you can, we only stayed one night and until lunch time the next day as with the cruise ships and the midday sun it was hot, crowded and overwhelming. Having been before we made a quick exit to head to Krka National Park, and the following day we finally made it Plitvice Lakes. We absolutely loved it here and highly recommend getting there as soon as the gates open to beat the crowds.

After visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park we stayed at a lovely Air B n B with a wood fired hot tub which was a lovely way to spend time after visiting the National Parks, before spending a couple of nights in a hotel in Opatja. We selected Opatja due to having stayed previously in Rovinj and Pula and it was a beautiful strip of coast line which although touristy didn’t seem to have many UK visitors. We still managed to fit in a quick trip to the ampitheatre in Pula too before our flight home. I have a gluten free guide to Croatia coming soon!

Bratislava – Slovakia, September

I needed to work in Bratislava on a Friday in September, which meant Paul could fly out and meet me for a weekend in the city. Definitely off the radar compared to some it’s neighbours like Vienna, Budapest and Prague but if you’re visiting any of these cities especially Vienna it is well worth adding a day or overnight stay in Bratislava. Oh, and the supermarkets seemed to be gluten free heaven for new products.

Ankara, Cappadocia, Istanbul and Bodrum – Turkey, Sep/Oct

In September/October time we often fly long haul for a longer holiday and we had originally been planning to visit California. I basically have a whole itinerary (including restaurants mapped out) but we changed our mind last minute. California was already expensive and borderline being worth the money compared to how much we wanted to go, when the pound continued to drop making it more and more expensive. We hate the feeling of watching every penny when away so decided to save the trip for another time, especially as we were planning an expensive trip in December to celebrate my 40th and as my brother decided he really wanted to come to LA with us too but wouldn’t be able to this year. All things considered we made an extremely last minute decision to change the trip to Turkey.

Completely different, we instead picked to go hot air ballooning in Cappadocia off the bucket list to base the trip around and Turkey generally is a much cheaper country to plan a two week trip in. We visited Ankara, before driving to Cappadocia via the salt flats to go hot air ballooning. We then went to Istanbul which was a complete write off due to me getting glutened and then decided to play it safe in Bodrum for a few days in the sun in a self catering villa rather than eating out (this is another trip that we booked a lot of it whilst on the go). We had a great time, but Turkey is definitely one of the harder countries for gluten free that I’ve travelled since covid. I am yet to write up my full trip guide, but I have posted my guide to gluten free local cuisine in Turkey to get you started.

Brussels, Prague and Budapest, Oct/Nov

I was back in Europe for work with a couple of days spent in Brussels, Prague and Budapest with varying levels of success on the gluten free front. Brussels was hard work, especially as I went with others and had no control over the restaurants or hotels we stayed in and we weren’t Centrally located. My highlight was definitely staying one night in Waterloo and discovering that Chambelland had a branch of their gluten free bakery there. Cue me arriving at 7:30am for their opening time to get some pastries before work.

Budapest and Prague were much easier – both cities have so many options to cover a weekend break and I was travelling by myself so I could eat where I wanted, so I was able to try some of the gluten free restaurants in the cities.

Abisko, Ice Hotel and Stockholm – Sweden, December

At the beginning of December I celebrated my 40th birthday by staying at the Ice Hotel in Sweden – it was amazing. We also stayed a couple of nights in the remote northern town of Abisko to see the Northern Lights after travelling by sleeper train from Stockholm. We also spent a weekend in Stockholm where my best friend came out to join us. Sweden is an expensive country to travel in but we balanced it with some self catering, some fast food and some free outdoor activities to help cover the cost of the activities and food we really wanted to try. Sweden is under the radar excellent at catering for gluten free and the trip wasn’t that stressful for eating; it’s also absolutely beautiful.

Frozen waterfall in Abisko

2022 Travel Favourites

Favourite Travel Moment: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

We have had some excellent travels this year from road trips through Croatia and The Netherlands, a 14 hour train journey through Sweden and cycling through Kinderdijk. We have stayed in some bucket list accommodation from the Ice Hotel in Sweden to Taskonalar Hotel in Cappadocia. My favourite travel moment though I think has to be hot air ballooning in Cappadocia and ticking that off the bucket list. The scenery of Cappadocia at sunrise is unreal.

Favourite New Place: The Netherlands

We loved The Netherlands, the country is so beautiful especially with all the fields full of colourful tulips. We loved the windmills and the canals, the cities and surprisingly the coast line. It unexpectedly had a bit of everything on our trip. It’s not the cheapest country to travel in though, especially over Easter so factor that in even if you find good deals on the Eurostar!

Favourite Place I Returned To: Stockholm, Sweden

I think this has to be Stockholm. Back in 2005 Paul and I went on one of our first trips together – a three day break Stockholm in July chosen due to cheap flights. Very quickly we learnt that Sweden is actually hot in July, and that Scandinavia is extremely expensive and that you shouldn’t pick budget travel by flight cost alone! Stockholm itself though was beautiful and I loved being able to return for a wintery weekend. We also revisited Grona Lund theme park which we loved!

Gluten Free Pastries at Happy Atlier, Stockholm

Favourite Country: Croatia

We travelled to some beautiful countries so this was tough but I’m going to pick Croatia. We can not get enough of the country and it’s stunning turquoise coastline against all the orange roofs. Everywhere we have been has just been incredible and that now includes some of the mainland too having explored the National Parks on this trip. We find Croatia so much cheaper than neighbouring Italy too. In 2023 I plan to visit Zagreb as we have never quite made it that far and I’d love to visit more of the islands especially Korcula.

Worst Travel Moment: Glutened in Istanbul

This goes to Istanbul and it has nothing to do with the city. I managed to gluten myself, the first time in a long time and wiped myself out for three days and therefore the entire time we were in Istanbul. Honestly I was so ill and I’m extremely glad Paul had talked me into paying more for a nicer hotel for the trip as I usually pick budget hotels on city breaks when you spend most of the time out sightseeing.

Biggest Travel Regret: Missing out on doughnuts

I couldn’t really think of one (other than missing out on Istanbul of course) so I’m going to go with a regret closer to home from a day out in Skegness. I visited the Uk coast resort at the beginning of the season with my family and walked past The Rock Shop that does gluten free fried doughnuts!! We were heading for fish and chips so decided to go there first and get doughnuts on the way back but alas it was closed. They were closing earlier due to the time of year, and that combined with the service being ridiculously slow in the restaurant for lunch (it must have been a lot of the summer staff first day on the job!) lunch took forever which meant we missed out. I was absolutely gutted to not get my hands on these doughnuts whilst in Skegness, especially as I’d even walked past them earlier when they were open!

Scariest Travel Moment: Driving in The Netherlands and Turkey

Driving in The Netherlands. Or Turkey. Both had their hair raising moments and I would not personally be the driver in either country but luckily Paul is far more confident than me on the roads. However, he found both of these countries stressful at times to drive in but he would still hire a car again as it gives so much flexibility.

In The Netherlands, drivers drive really close together from our experience and cut each other up regularly. Cars overtook on motorways into gaps that were not gaps and some of the drives were really stressful.

It was even worse in Turkey, in some places there seemed to be no rules especially driving into Istanbul . We saw cars reversing up the motorway after missing a turning, had cars just drive at us sideways to try and force us out the way on the motorway, were cut up frequently and there were some outrageous manouvres that we saw that had to be seen to be believed. Do not drive into Istanbul unless you have insurance and are a very confident driver! The same probably goes for the rest of Turkey but that was definitely the worst of the drives.

Best Accommodation: Ice Hotel, Sweden

Definitely the Ice Hotel. We absolutely loved the experience and you should upgrade to an ensuite room with a sauna if you can to make the most of the experience. I will be writing up my whole trip at some point for the blog.

Best Gluten Free Meal: Ice Menu, Sweden

The best meal we ate in 2022 I think easily goes to the Ice Menu at The Ice Hotel too. It was unique, an amazing way to celebrate my 40th and the food divine. I had mine with the wine flight that paired with the food and every course was thoroughly enjoyed. We started with a reindeer broth; followed by reindeer carpaccio served on a block of ice with a glass of Pinot Gris. This was followed by Arctic Char with a onion hollandaise mousse that was incredible . The main was melt in the mouth reindeer served with a meaty sauce, artichoke and mushrooms and a glass of red. Even dessert wasn’t a fruit salad but a raspberry and lime sorbet topped with raspberry marshmallow and served with a dessert wine. The meal itself should be on your bucket list as much as a stay at the Ice Hotel may be.

Runners Up

It’s so tough picking one meal out for the year so here’s a few (or six!) runners up from my travels (that were also much cheaper than the meal at the Ice Hotel). The best meals are normally when I have successfully found a local meal gluten free, and that’s definitely the case here.

Gluten Free Schnitzel: Bohemtanya – Budapest, Hungary

100% Gluten Free and Lactose Free Restaurant

Gluten Free Manti: Glutensiz Kafe Kaytur – Keyseri, Turkey

100% Gluten Free Cafe

Gluten Free Meatballs: Meatballs for the People – Stockholm, Sweden

All Meatballs were gluten free when we visited

Gluten Free Calamari and Saganaki: Arkadia – Athens, Greece

Arkadia can make so many options gluten free including saganaki!

Gluten Free Truffle Ravioli: Marvie Hotel – Split, Croatia

A huge gluten free menu and this truffle ravioli was to die for

Gluten Free Fried Chicken: Bucks Bar – Glasgow, Scotland

A huge gluten free menu and dedicated fryer for epic fried chicken in Glasgow

Worst Meal

This is easy – being served gluten free pasta in Cappadocia at Mithra Cave Hotel that was just plain pasta with NO sauce! This has never happened to me in all my years of being coeliac and was somehow worse than somewhere being awful or not having options as I’d geared myself up for a delicious bowl of pasta! I tried asking for a tomato sauce and got offered ketchup so I tried asking for butter and pepper to try and do something with it and I got giving some chilli pepper and no butter. They wanted me to be safe but it’s pointless in my eyes to then serve the pasta. You live and learn to check the sauce when offered the gluten free pasta option and all I could really do was laugh whilst Paul ate his kebab.

Best Gluten Free Pastry

Every year I order croissants and pastries from Mannadew in London for Christmas, and I also enjoyed a croissant at Libby’s London which I would recommend if you’re in London. However, the best pastries I had in 2022 were found in Amsterdam, Budapest and Bratislava.

Gluten Free Croissants: Craft Coffee and Pastry – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Gluten Free Chocolate Pastry: Yeme Potraviny – Bratislava, Slovakia

Gluten Free Plum Pastry: Free Place Cafe – Budapest, Hungary

Best Sweet Treats

I had some amazing gluten free treats this year and a couple of my favourites were found in Prague and Rijeka.

Gluten Free Custard Cake: Rica – Rijeka, Croatia

Gluten Free Cream Choux Bun: Buchta Cukrarstvi – Prague, Czech Republic

Best Local Meal: Foxy Wings – Bedford, UK

For this I think I’m actually going to chose Foxy Wings in Bedford (close enough as I used to work in Bedford so I think it’s allowed!) I had a fantastic meal here in the summer with Glutarama and Thegf_gf sharing fried chicken wings and cauliflower, chips and corn on the cob. Everything was so good and they were super clued up on coeliac, now they just need to open a branch in Milton Keynes or I need to find an excuse to visit Bedford ASAP as this post has reminded me just how good this meal was! I think we are now have last minute plans to visit this weekend and I can’t wait.

As my 2022 round up comes to an end I reflect on all the travel and gluten free finds, whilst wondering what is in store for 2023. I have so many blog posts I need to write up and would love to have the time to do, so hopefully I will get a chance to put together my guides for Croatia and The Netherlands very soon. If you’re travelling before I get around to it feel free to reach out for some recommendations.

I’m not sure yet what 2023 has in store for travelling but I’m really hoping to get back to South East Asia and maybe explore some more of Eastern Europe by car. (Note – all destinations where the pound goes further!) We are also planning a couple of city breaks, potentially to Florence and Zagreb so we will see where we end up. Like I said we’ve been planning trips last minute so we really could end up doing anything!

Finally, if you’re reading this then thank you so much for following my blog, it’s a huge passion project of mine to encourage anyone diagnosed with coeliac to not give up travelling.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year, full of travel and no gluten!

Rachel

5 thoughts on “2022 in Review: Travel Favourites – The Sightseeing Coeliac

  1. I LOVE this post! It’s so fun (and honestly kinda therapeutic) to take the time and look back on all the adventures from the past year… good and bad. I’m really sorry to hear you’ve had a tough year personally in 2022 and I hoping 2023 is better for you in that regard. However no doubt you’ve had some epic travels and it’s so inspiring! When I say I literally started salivating at those gluten free pastry photos…. hahah. Also has me planning a return visit to Amsterdam just for that. I’m going to be in the UK for a pretty flying visit in May and again in September, maybe we can even meet up this year?!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment (And inspiring the post in the first place!) There are so many amazing gf pastries to be found in Europe… Craft coffee and pastry and Amsterdam is worth the trip to Amsterdam! Meeting up would be awesome if we can time it right. Can’t wait to follow your travels this year!

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  2. Thank you so much for this (amazing!) review of your travels. I am only fairly recently diagnosed, and with Covid thrown in the mix have only just got to grips with eating out here in the UK! I am hoping in 2023 to holiday abroad, and this has given me some brilliant inspiration!
    Hope 2023 is a much better year for you ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

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