The Eiffel Tower from the Seine.
An International Woman of Mystery, I am not. But the Jersey Girl likes to get around.
So, how do you travel to foreign lands while dealing with a food allergy?
Very carefully, my friends.
The Husband and moi had the magnifique opportunity to travel to Paris last May.
The Jersey Girl doing what she does, shoe shopping.
It was beyond amazing, but eating did pose some trials and tribulations for yours truly.
But have no fear! I am here to share with you what we learned while rocking out on the Champs Elysees and other fab places all throughout the City of Lights.
The Husband eating his fav - escargots.
... and chillin' on a boat ride.
... and drinking a beer. A beer??? Where's your wine, Mark?
Here's me - eating and I'm alive.
Woo-hoo! Dang, my hair is short.
In case you’re new to my blog, the Jersey Girl has a life-threatening food allergy to all nuts, peanuts, peanut butter and nut oils. In addition, I also have rockin’ food allergies to: fruits with pits (peaches, plums, cherries, etc.), avocado and some other produce type things that I dig. Ironically, my allergies to the fruits did not happen until I hit my 20s, because seriously, I love me some Jersey peaches and watermelon, and guacamole is really delish, but yeah. I can’t eat that schtuff.
So here’s my non-scientific travel advice when heading to Paris with a food allergy, specifically to nuts and peanuts:
1. Get it in writing. Go immediately to select wisely and order allergy cards in the language you need. My foreign-language speaking skills are non-existent. Yes, I have three years of high school French, one year of high school Italian and four years of college Italian under my belt, and I still suck. Don’t judge me. Keep the cards with you at all times while traveling.
2. Have a well-stocked supply of drugs. Make sure all your meds, inhalers, pills, needles, etc. are renewed. Carry these things with you at all times while you stay on foreign land. You don’t need to tell me twice that this is totally Lindsay Lohan, but you gots to do what you gots to do. I am not a druggie, I swear.
3. Show the cards mentioned above to the server immediately.
4. Ask for menus in English. I know, I know. This has “dumb American” written all over it, but yeah. I am a dumb American, who really doesn’t want to kick the bucket while on vacay. So, just ask for the menu in anglaise, and pretend the snooty French peeps aren’t laughing at you.
5. Have a plan. The Husband and moi love to roam the streets on vacay and just randomly pick a bar or a pub or a bistro or a café to chill and hang and eat at non-touristy, off-the-beaten-path kind of places. This is amazingly fun to do – in countries where English is spoken. But, in Paris our plan to have no plan didn’t really work out. Our Day 1 dinner ended with a sad, hungry, teary-eyed and jet-lagged Susan. The Husband sprung into action and got me to a café stat with a big glass of wine and crepes and ice cream. Eternal happiness.
6. Eat at restaurants where there is an English-speaking person on staff. You can find out just by perusing the menus on the outside of the restaurants or cafes or asking the mater di.
7. Ask your hotel staff for help. We stayed at the fabulous Hotel Residence Foch. It is a very small hotel in the 16th Arrondisement. The hotel staff was made of awesome! Upon returning from our debacle of a dining experience on Day 1, the peeps at our hotel gave us great recommendations. They knew of places that were accommodating for food allergy sufferers. They also pointed us in the direction of places where employees speak English. The hotel employees were so amazing. They really helped me get my French food on.
8. Find the word “olive oil” on your menu. Point to it and tell the waiter, “bon” or good. The Husband and I believe part of our Day 1 disaster occurred because of olive oil being lost in translation. The restaurant staff believed I was allergic to olive oil. But, olive oil is all good in the hood for me. If you are allergic to olive oil, I got nothing for ya.
9. Approach street vendors and bakeries with caution. While I totally enjoyed many sandwiches and tartines from the awesome street vendors, I kept my orders very, very basic: Ham and cheese, tomato. The bakeries have SO MANY amazingly fabulous creations, but I pretty much stuck with a croissant or chocolate croissant and coffee. Tres boring, I KNOW! This goes against everything I believe in, however; being daring with the baked goods in a place where the English is very limited was not worth the risk of going into anaphylactic shock. Seriously. That would be the ultimate buzz kill.
10. Carry a French dictionary. My husband laughed at me for this one, but if there is a word on the menu that you don't know, it's great to look it up to make sure you know what you're eating. This is how I figured out the olive oil thing. See, I'm not entirely hopeless.
11. If you have a great experience at a restaurant, return. The Husband and I ate at a few restaurants and cafes more than once because the service and attention were fantastic. Not to mention the food was amazing. Knowing that the service is good and that your food allergy is not going to be a big old problem makes dining out so much more enjoyable. So, I highly recommend you do this. One restaurant we loved was:
Chez Andre, 12 rue Marbeuf, Phone: 01 47 20 59 57
The host and waitresses remembered each time we returned that I was allergic to nuts. Oo la la. That rocked!
Bon appetit and happy travels!