This post is essentially meant for those of us who suffer from food intolerance and plan to travel. I would like to share our experience of traveling from our home in France to Tokyo early this month, knowing that my husband is allergic to sulfites and intolerant to most dairy products and that, for my part, gluten does not like me at all!
My basic recommendation would be to plan, even more so than I did, for meals and snacks:
As we live in an area with few trains to Paris, almost every time we take a plane we have to spend the night before in a hotel if we want to be at the airport early enough before boarding. This makes things a little tricky: I need to plan for several meals before the one we are served on the plane! Here is what we carried in our backpack; I had made and frozen the baked goods one month before.
I should have planned more snacks for my dear husband: by the time we reached Frankfurt where we had a stopover, his stomach was begging for food already and he bought himself a sandwich with no cheese, but containing ham, most likely with dextrose (made using sulfites)… As a result of this, unless it was the stress induced by the trip (we experienced a very rocky take-off from Frankfurt due to a strong windstorm), he had a little asthma on the evening of our arrival.
Once your plane ticket has been purchased, most airline companies offer you a choice of menus. If it is relatively easy to get a “gluten-free” menu nowadays, no “sulfite-free” meal is offered… What to do? Because of the too many additives that hide in industrial gluten-free food, this was not an option for my husband. In the end, in order to avoid dairy, he went for a “vegan” menu. However, it came with a fruit cup… with some grapes in it. So we exchanged our fruit!
The airline also provided us with breakfast. Like a mother hen, I couldn’t help but glance at my his tray. I could tell there were some words in bold letters inscribed on the aluminum foil covering it. I took a closer look and cried “stop!”: even in German and hardly legible (black on dark gray), I recognized the mean “… disulfite” word! And so this is how my dear husband landed in Tokyo, feeling empty-stomached and a little grouchy.
The return trip was a complete different story. We had a direct flight on ANA – an airline company I highly recommend: comfortable seats even in Sardine class, and above all, fresh produce. My husband had chosen a “raw food” meal this time and he was not disappointed. No meat for him once again, but he could have easily stolen some from my own tray. It is one of the advantages of traveling together. You can share the food!
By the time we arrived in Paris, it was too late for a train – did I tell you we live in the No Man’s Land of French transport? This meant yet another night at a hotel. I had packed dried fruit for our breakfast, but of course nothing for the evening meal. We were tired, not really inclined to go looking for a friendly restaurant when dusk had already fallen… We shouldn’t have, but went to the local Mc Donald’s!!! I was reasonable and chose a large salad and fries: the kind of meal I never eat at home! My dear husband, whose stomach likes to complain, ate a Big Mac… And the next morning, when he woke up, he had a very swollen eye (edema) with a pretty additional boil-like thing growing on top!!! To be expected, wasn’t it? Afterwards I went on their site, and sulfites are indeed listed as part of the allergens found in a Big Mac. But wait, dear neighbor! This only appears clearly on the French language site, which follows European legislation! I couldn’t find the same info on the American site. Here’s for you to compare:
However, there was no such list on the burger’s wrapping paper itself. For more information, we would have needed to flash the QR code with a phone much smarter than the seven year-old one I carry around. Or maybe ask the employee to do the research? In any event, it would not have solved the Hungry Traveler’s problem.
We still had to worry about eating before getting on the train. Luckily, I spotted an organic food store just across the street from our hotel! I rushed there in the morning and bought fresh fruit and preservative-free salads, one of which gluten-free for me. Relief!
And now, dear neighbors, I am happy to share some photos from our trip. There will be more in my next posts, I promise!
What struck me in Tokyo was the architectural contrast of the buildings…
And the cleanliness! Awesome. Arriving back in Paris was somewhat of a culture shock after a whole week of no litter in the streets – and yet no trash cans!
We only got to see Mount Fuji on the day we departed, from the airport…. It was as if it was taunting us, telling us to come back!