#tbt: a British Adventure

One of the best trips I’ve ever taken was my family’s summer vacation to England last year. It was amazing for a lot of reasons: lovely scenery, fascinating historical sites, world-class museums, and of course… the food. Although England tends to get a bad rap for its cuisine (black pudding, anyone?), my family and I were shocked to find that England could serve up some of the best meals we had ever eaten. I was especially surprised to find that the gluten-free trend is even bigger across the pond!

Every restaurant we visited  had an extensive gluten-free menu and went out of their way to ensure that I was happy with my meal, and bakeries always had at least a couple gluten-free pastries to choose from. This was night and day from here in America, where we are hard pressed to even get a gluten free bun with our burgers!

We traveled all over the country, from London to Oxford and up into the Cotswolds, and I swear we didn’t have a bad meal the whole time. Here were a few of my favorites:

Jamie’s Italian: Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant in Oxford was our first meal we had in the country. After a red-eye flight, renting cars and driving into Oxford, we were all delirious and starving; this was the perfect remedy. Italian food usually doesn’t bode well for us celiacs, but to my delight, I was actually able to enjoy homemade gluten-free pasta for once!

Traditional Afternoon Tea at The Brown Hotel: you know something’s good when your mom steals your GF scones because they are better than the ones with gluten. I ate my weight and then some in scrumptious tea sandwiches, cookies, scones, and desserts of every kind and did not regret a single thing. For anyone who even remotely enjoys tea, this is a MUST.

Bread Street Kitchen: despite the name, this restaurant had plenty of gluten free options, and even had homemade gluten free bread! One of Gordon Ramsay’s 14 restaurants in London, this is the perfect spot for a high-quality GF feast (the duck was amazing)- and maybe even a sighting of the famous chef yelling at some unlucky chaps like he does on TV.

The Wild Rabbit: this was truly the most charming inn I have ever stayed in, and the food did not disappoint either. Everything was fresh from their own gardens or from the Daylesford Farm just down the road in Kingham, England. The shop and restaurants at this all-organic farm were phenomenal, with everything local, fresh, and in season. As always, homemade gluten-free bread was served, and it was delicious.

For those of you who scoff at gluten-free food, I want to remind you that my parents (who are quite the food snobs-  in a good way!) thoroughly enjoyed both the allergy-friendly options as well as the gluten-filled meals at these restaurants. That’s what made them so perfect- there was something for everyone!

Although visiting some of the many breweries and pubs around England was a fun experience, unfortunately beer was out of the question for me. Luckily, most also offered ciders- they are usually gluten-free, but the staff was always very helpful in helping me find something I could drink!

Besides eating and drinking, England is filled with so many lovely things to do. Summertime is a perfect time to visit, so you can soak up the sunshine doing a biking tour of all the sights, or stroll along the Thames river sipping a Pimm’s (literally the best drink ever!). In the summer, there are also plenty of farmer’s markets and stands selling local produce and freshly made baked goods (with GF options, obviously). Don’t be afraid to travel off the beaten path, because you never know what you might find!

Happy travels,

The Wandering Celiac

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Seven Reasons to Visit Grand Cayman

Nestled in the Caribbean Sea just south of Cuba, lies one of the most amazing islands I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

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The Cayman Islands are a small British territory in the Caribbean made up of three tiny islands. Grand Cayman, the biggest, is a popular vacation spot due to its crystal clear water, sublime snorkeling and diving sites, and pristine beaches.

My family is not one to visit the same location twice (I visited  once in high school), but I had the opportunity to take this trip with my boyfriend’s family, and I am so glad that I did. Although I tend to take vacation as an excuse to visit a new and exotic location, revisiting the island was nice, as I had a good sense of what I wanted to do and what restaurants to visit (and which ones to avoid!)

If you are ever looking into a Caribbean vacation, the Cayman Islands should definitely be on your list. Here are a few reasons why (in no particular order):

7) Seven Mile Beach

Ok, so it’s not actually seven miles long… it’s only 6.3 miles from one end to the other. But still, that is one huge beach. This is a popular strip  dotted with hotels and condos, so it can be a bit crowded in peak season, and for good reason. The blue water is so clear, you can see the ripples on the bottom of the sand from the surface of the water and depths of over 30 feet. The sand is so white and soft, it looks like it might have been Photoshopped. And, let’s not forget the many hotels with swim-up bars offering freshly made pina coladas and mudslides. Which brings me to my next reason…

6) Mudslides

Three words: Ice cream (technically two, but bear with me here). Chocolate. Alcohol.

Basically, when you combine these three things together, you get a chocolately milkshake that makes you sort of tipsy that you can enjoy freely on the beach at anytime of the day, whether it be noon or midnight (seriously… day drinking is encouraged in the islands). Rum Point Beach is world famous for its signature mudslides, although the pina coladas at nearly every beach bar on the island are also spot-on.

5) Live entertainment

There is almost nothing better in the world than feeling the warm island breeze on your face while listening to the soft drumming of the bongos. My boyfriend’s mom was obsessed with one of the local bands on the island, Hi Tide, which did covers of favorites such as Jimmy Buffett and Jack Johnson. She was so obsessed, in fact, that in the seven days we were there, we went to three of their performances.

4) Snorkeling and Diving

I have done my fair share of snorkeling- in Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico- but nothing that I’ve seen so far has beat the snorkeling in Grand Cayman. Although I have never gone scuba diving myself (and never will, thanks to an eardrum that refuses to stay intact), I have heard from numerous friends that the diving was also out-of-this world amazing. The water is so clear, you can see forever- and the abundance of fish, turtles, and stingrays glide right past you as if you are one of them.

3) Mudslides

Yes, I know I already said it. They’re that good.

2) Fresh seafood

I’m pretty sure I had fresh fish or seafood of some sort every single day while in Grand Cayman. My favorite- and I mean all time favorite– spot for fish tacos is the Sunshine Grill. It’s the weirdest little restaurant, placed smack dab in the middle of the pool at a hotel (the Sunshine Suites, I believe); but if you can get over the fact that you can watch random people swimming while you stuff your face, it’s great. The Mahi Mahi fish tacos- those alone are worth the plane ride.

1) Stingray City

There are absolutely no words to describe the experience of having wild stingrays come up to you and swim right into your arms. Despite their bad reputation, these slimy creatures are actually quite sweet, as long as you follow your guide’s instructions and don’t step on one! And although it can definitely be nerve-wracking to have hundreds of them swarming you for food, it is truly one of the coolest things I have ever done in my entire life. Make sure to kiss one right on the snout for seven years of good luck!

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Please ignore my squinty-eyed cheesy grin: LOOK HOW BIG THIS THING WAS!!

 

Where was the best vacation you ever had? I want to hear your stories!

xoxo,

Sarah