Hiking in La Réunion

hikin

The more I explore the world, the less I feel held back by the whole gluten thing. At first, even the thought of picnics, big dinners, camping trips etc would fill me with unease as I went into slight panic mode before every said occasion: What am I going to eat?! I’m going to be the odd one out. There’ll be bread everywhere… WHAT IF SOMEONE ACCIDENTALLY SPRINKLES CRUMBS IN MY FOOD?! But I am so used to it now, it’s really not a big deal, it’s become completely normal. In fact I’m pretty sure coeliacs should get to put all this practice of various skills on their CVs because every single day we have to be self-sufficient, organised, independant, assertive and positive.

Before coming travelling, I flipped between feeling completely fine about the challenges that I’d face being a lone female, vegetarian, coeliac abroad, to feeling way out of my depth wondering why on earth I would even try. But hey, guess what? I just spent 3 months living with different families and communities in France, having an amazing time, eating delicious food and learning some fantastic new gluten free recipes. Now I am in La Réunion, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean with all the lychees, mangos, passionfruits and pineapples that my little gluten-free heart desires. Basically, I’m in paradise.

Island fruits
Island fruits

So, last weekend, I went hiking with a lovely bunch of new friends. We climbed the Roche Écrit in St Denis, La Réunion, finding a beautiful untouched spot in the mountains to set up camp for the evening. We told stories around the fire, watched the stars and turned in early ready to rise with the sun and get started on the next part of the hike. There are no words to describe the spectacular landscape, but trust me, it was enough to fill the body with that delicious awe-inspiring ecstacy that only a natural high can deliver.

And did I go hungry? Well of course not! It’s true that it would be a lot more simple to just pack a stick of bread, some cheese and biscuits in the old backpack. But in fact, it’s not actually that difficult adapting the normal picnic for gluten free alternatives. In my back pack I had peanuts, a rice and lentil packed dinner, fruit, GF snackbars, raisins, tinned sweetcorn, GF flapjack and compot. The day before when stocking up on camping gear, I even found a pharmacy selling gluten free chocolate chip cookies. What’s more, on the way down from the top of the mountain, a man threw us some sugar cane from his garden and we nibbled on it, sucking out the sweet juice and spitting the fibre out.

During the night on our hike, I had a dream where I was in the UK, feeling very static and miserable. It was raining, cold and dark and I wished I was somewhere else, but in the dream I hadn’t had the courage to get myself out into the world. I had felt held back by fear and remained stuck. Then in reality, I woke up from the light of the sun shining brightly and the noise of birdsong. I unzipped the tent and saw the most magnificent view from the mountain top. Drinking in a deep breath of fresh air I could not stop smiling, as I realised, this is real. I could not be more happy that I took the risk of just showing up here with my backpack and the hope that I’d get by being gluten free. It’s even better than I ever imagined it could be and I’m having to pinch myself everyday to be sure I’m living in reality.

Gluten free cookie!
Gluten free cookie!
Hiking in the mountains, St Denis, La Réunion
Hiking in the mountains, St Denis, La Réunion
View of St Denis from the mountains
View of St Denis from the mountains
The team
The team
Refuelling with sugar cane
Refuelling with sugar cane

Gluten-Free in Paris!

Helmut Newcake's pastrie selection (did I mention it's ALL GLUTEN FREE!!!)
Helmut Newcake’s pastrie selection (did I mention it’s ALL GLUTEN FREE!!!)

What if I told you that nestled in amongst the alluring smell of croissants and fresh bread, teasing you from every corner of Paris, there is a patisserie with a mouthwatering selection of gluten-free cakes, pastries, freshly baked breads, macaroons and biscuits? And then what if I said that you can be safe in the knowledge every baked good is safe for coeliacs? You would probably think you were dreaming.

So I’m guessing you can imagine my excitement when I found Helmut Newcake on Rue Bechat in Paris. The minute I stepped in I wanted to eat it all and quick before going back out into the gluten-y world and being deprived of such delicacies!

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Helmut Newcake also offer lunch during the day. Usually there is a vegetarian option and a meat dish but when I went there was just meat or fish so I settled for tea and an eclair, which were delicious, as well as buying a loaf of freshly baked bread to take back to the appartment. The great thing about this bread is it holds together perfectly to make sandwiches or cut slices, something which is hard to find with gluten free bread that can often be crumbly and fall to pieces.

Freshly baked bread
Freshly baked bread
To be honest, I would even consider coming all the way back to Paris just to eat another one of these eclairs
To be honest, I would even consider coming all the way back to Paris just to eat another one of these eclairs

So, next my vegetarian friend and I searched for somewhere to eat some lunch. And hey presto, imagine our delight to find that on the same road there is a gorgeous little organic café serving gluten-free veggie soup and what’s more, gluten free buckwheat cake! I was especially impressed because the woman serving me knew all about cross-contamination and not using the same utensils for the gluten free cake, I hadn’t even mentioned the word coeliac and she was already sure to be cautious. It really makes all the difference to eating out. Some days just get better and better!

Le Bichat, an all organic café on Rue Bichat
Le Bichat, an all organic café on Rue Bichat
gluten free buckwheat cake at Le Bichat
gluten free buckwheat cake at Le Bichat

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The soup was only 3 euros (WOW!) and was delicious, a warm mix of ginger, lentils, carrots and potatoes.

So, what did I do for food when we weren’t feasting on gluten free pastries and yummy soups?

As usual with travelling, I stocked up on food for breakfast and got some basics like vegetables and rice to make dinners with. In Paris there is some great organic shops “bio” which all have a really good range of gluten free foods, including cereals, muesli, bread, snacks and sweet treats. Also, surprisingly lot’s of supermarkets had a gluten free section or at least some rice cakes. And with fresh fruit and veg, nuts, or rice cakes with your favourite spread, ya can’t really go wrong! Let’s get exploring.

My friend and I in Paris
My friend and I in Paris

And now I am sitting with my packed gluten free sandwich waiting for my flight to La Réunion. Watch this space and also, never feel held back by being gluten-free, there’s a whole world out there waiting for us to discover it! (More a note to myself than anything)