Bora Bora – Honeymoon part 1

While my husband and I were planning a vacation years ago, we decided to build a “bucket list” of places we’ve always wanted to visit.  The list started as a very rough list in my phone, and has grown to a live document organized by region of the world.  Back then when Bora Bora was mentioned, we decided that it was such an incredible and extravagant destination that it had to be either our honeymoon, or a major anniversary celebration.  Fast forward a few more years, and there we were planning the honeymoon of a lifetime!

This trip was a huge step for me in learning to manage my celiac disease.  Prior to our honeymoon I’d been to fifteen foreign countries, but my last trip had been only months before the celiac diagnosis.  As I learned to live with the limitations and adjustments, I had completely stopped traveling!  I set out trying to figure out how to tackle our trip, and what I need to take care of before we left.  We were planning to stay at the Hilton Bora Bora, and from what I could tell on their website, the restaurants on the property would be first class.

When it came time to pack up our suitcases, I decided to bring with me enough LÄRABARS to have one per day.  I’m not sure how everyone else does when they get hungry, but if I can’t eat as soon as hunger hits, we’re all in trouble!!  I tend to get very nauseous, a little cranky, and very quickly lose my appetite to the point that I really can’t eat.  I’ve always blamed my reaction to hunger on the fact that I no longer have a gallbladder, but let’s be honest, I’m no doctor and I don’t know the true reasoning behind it.  The LÄRABARS gave us the confidence to know that wherever we were, I had something I could eat immediately if need be!

Please let me stress before you read this next part, Bora Bora was an absolutely incredible trip, and I truly had the time of my life!  Once we arrived, we quickly learned what appears to be many restaurants on the hotel’s website is in reality only two.  One very expensive restaurant, and a more “reasonably” priced grill style restaurant.  Here’s a basic synopsis of how each of our meals turned out:

Breakfast: The Hilton truly had a five star experience for breakfast.  There was an entire room filled with fresh fruits, in addition to an omelet station (I ignored everything else).  Because none of the ingredients in the omelet station had gluten in them, I was able to have one every morning without thinking about cross-contamination in the pans.  Of course I always started the day with a nice variety of tropical fruits as well 🙂  Once the hotel found out I could not have gluten, they went out of their way to track down gluten free breads in town, which were promptly brought to our table each morning!

Lunch/Dinner: These meals were more of a challenge for me.  The menu for the grill restaurant had the following sections: starters/salads, sandwiches, bruschetta, pizza, pasta, burgers, fish, meat, and dessert.  You can see where I started to have a problem.  The bruschetta, pizza and pastas were out, leaving me with salads (without the croutons), burgers (without the bun), fish or meat.  On top of that, they only had three fish options, fish of the day in vanilla sauce, fish’n’chips (yikes!), or a fish plate to share which had both tempura and soy sauce in the description!!  Needless to say I was getting an overload of protein, with too much vanilla sauce and very little variety.

Stuffed tuna dinner at the upscale resort restaurant.

Stuffed tuna dinner at the upscale resort restaurant.

The biggest surprise hit of that week was our excursion outside of the resort to get dinner.  We had heard other honeymooners rave about Bloody Mary’s, so we had the concierge book us a reservation near the end of our trip.  Dinner that night was beyond anything we’d imagined!!  Walking in, we were brought to an open ice display of raw food (check it out here!) which was our menu for the evening.  The servers quickly addressed my gluten concerns, pointing out exactly which appetizers and meals I could not have.  We ordered our food on the spot, and were escorted to a private table where we enjoyed kicking off our sandals to feel the sand floor beneath our feet!  I wish I could remember exactly what we ate, but hopefully you’ll enjoy this fun picture instead 🙂
Bloody Mary's Menu

Getting to choose our dinner from a raw bar of options!

Overall it was an incredible experience! Here were my major takeaways from the trip…I had to start somewhere right?

Lesson #1: People in the tourism industry are usually very eager to please their guests, let them know ahead of your trip that you require special dietary needs so they have plenty of time to research and prepare!

Lesson #2: Resort is not a synonym for “easy access to anything you need,” if it took you 10+ hours to fly there, chances are it takes just as long, if not longer, to get typical deliveries of goods there as well.  This especially is important to remember when telling the resort about food allergies (back to lesson #1, I should have warned them ahead of time).

Lesson #3: When you pack gluten free snacks in your bag, don’t forget to transfer them into whatever you’re carrying for the day!  They won’t do you any good back in your room 😦

Can’t Live Without It!

So how on earth does someone with celiac disease even begin to think about traveling?  By breaking the language barrier first!  I honestly couldn’t tell you what I was looking for when I tracked down Triumph Dining Cards, but early on in my diagnosis I was on just about every website I could find just to learn more.  I immediately ordered their 10-language dining cards, and have kept them in my purse since they arrived.

A little about the cards, not only do they explain celiac disease and the dangers of cross-contamination, the cards include a section titled “please check” which include locally used ingredients that could include gluten.  For example, the Japanese card references soy sauce and imitation crab, while the Italian card highlights meatballs, sausage and cured meats.  The pack includes American, Chinese, French, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Do they actually work?  Absolutely!  Not only do I travel internationally, but I live in a very diverse area.  I’m sure most of you have experienced the frustrations of trying to explain to the wait staff how careful they’ll need to be when preparing your meal.  Even in English, it can be a challenge!  I’ve sent the cards back to the chef on many occasions, and they are typically very well received.

I have to admit, I love the conversations they start as well.  I frequently have people ask to learn more when they see me handing off the cards to wait staff.  I happily take the time to inform them about the disease, and offer to show them the cards so they can understand more.  While on our honeymoon my husband and I met two brothers from California and their uncles who had traveled to meet them from Taiwan.  The cards piqued their interest, so I handed them the Chinese language card.  After reading it, they confirmed that it read correctly in simple mandarin which would be easier for Chinese speakers to understand; however, they were quick to point out that I should probably never go to China since the disease would severely limit what I’d be able to eat. But THAT is another story for another blog post!!

Local Flavor – Lincoln Restaurant Review

Here goes nothing!  I’m new to blogging, so we’ll keep this first entry simple.  This past week was restaurant week in Washington, DC and I love trying new places at a great price.  For those of you that have never heard of restaurant week, it’s essentially one week that local restaurants offer a three to four course dinner for $35.14 (or $20.14 for lunch).  My husband and I decide to venture somewhere new after a good friend told me about Lincoln’s gluten free menu.  This restaurant did not disappoint!  The service was incredible, the ambiance was so unique and patriotic in a glamorous way, and the food was absolutely delicious!

First of all, they had a specialized gluten free menu which was almost completely separate from their regular dishes to help the kitchen staff differentiate between gluten-sensitive guests.  Our waiter seemed very knowledgeable about cross-contamination, and assured us that the staff would be incredibly careful in making my dishes.  Overall I give them an 8 out of 10, definitely a restaurant I’ll return to!  Without further ado, here’s what I ordered.

Yellowfin Tuna - Poke Style Tuna, Coffee Bean Vinaigrette, Grapefruit Ponzu Jam, Honey Compressed Jalapeños, Candied Grapefruit, Smoked Crème Fraiche

Yellowfin Tuna – Poke Style Tuna, Coffee Bean Vinaigrette, Grapefruit Ponzu Jam, Honey Compressed Jalapeños, Candied Grapefruit, Smoked Crème Fraiche

Beet Salad - Grilled Baby Beets, Whipped Goat Cheese, Sunflower Sprouts, Candied Walnuts, Creamy Horseradish Dressing, Olive Soil

Beet Salad – Grilled Baby Beets, Whipped Goat Cheese, Sunflower Sprouts, Candied Walnuts, Creamy Horseradish Dressing, Olive Soil

NY Strip Steak - Black Garlic Gelée, Duck Fat Potatoes, Smoked Sea Salt

NY Strip Steak – Black Garlic Gelée, Duck Fat Potatoes, Smoked Sea Salt

Burnt Banana Sundae - Fudge, Stracciatella Ice Cream, Toffee Popcorn

Burnt Banana Sundae – Fudge, Stracciatella Ice Cream, Toffee Popcorn