Tag Archives: Coeliacs

Gluten Free Travel – The Lygon Arms Hotel, Broadway, The Cotswolds

I have been away quite a lot recently. Ten days in Seychelles on honeymoon, a week at home followed by a week in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband while he was working. Lu, my eight year old daughter, spent the time with my mum and with her dad, who had already arranged to take her away during the Easter holidays which is when I was in America. However, it still felt like an awfully long time since I had seen her properly so I suggested a mini-break for us both, a little adventure just her and I. Oh, the excitement. I took her away to the lovely The Great House at Sonning the year before last for a night and she thoroughly enjoyed it. This time around I chose The Lygon Arms Hotel in Broadway, the Cotswolds. I have had my eye on it for months, in fact, I made enquiries about having my wedding there when it was to be a small family affair.  In the end, we went for a large wedding and held it at Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier’s old home in Buckinghamshire, Notley Abbey. Oh how I adore Gone with the Wind, I walked down the aisle to its theme music. And as my husband and I are travelling back to the Carolinas and Georgia at the end of the month I shall definitely be visiting Margaret Mitchell’s house in Atlanta.

As my health has improved (that was then, this is now…) I could now drive for more than ten minutes without becoming exhausted and putting myself out of action for days I thought somewhere further afield would be lovely and the Cotswolds was perfect. We stayed for three nights, and Lu thought it might be nice to ask my husband to stay on the third night. The hotel is child and dog-friendly. I think her request was made mainly so he would bring the dog with him as she misses our mini dachshund, Livia, when she is not around. Also, children can use the swimming pool at the hotel Spa at certain times so Lu was keen to involve as many responsible adults as possible lest I got too tired to take her. She is a very clever girl,  my 8 year old.

We arrived on a rainy Friday evening in May at about 7.30pm, later than planned after a few wrong turns on my part,  and pulled into the gravel drive at the front of the beautiful foliage covered hotel on the main avenue in Broadway. We were greeted by the most charming chap dressed in country casual jeans and blazer and having explained our tardiness for our dinner reservation and the tired 8 year old he arranged a speedy check in and then gracefully directed me to carpark behind the hotel which was just in front of our cottage.  Lu wanted to get changed first as she had packed a number of ‘evening’ outfits.  She is her mother’s daughter.

 

The dining room, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

The dining room, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

The dining room, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

The dining room, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

It was a short stroll across a lane to the main hotel. I had informed them when I booked that I was coeliac (gluten free) and they said that it would not be a problem. It had been noted on my dinner reservation and the wait staff handled it perfectly. We were looked after by a wonderful woman called Lucia, the same name as my daughter so it boded well!  I was taken through the menu and told they were happy to amend dishes if possible. There was a separate menu for children. The dining room itself is absolutely beautiful, both immense and intimate at the same time, a perfect combination.

 

 

Smoked salmon and olives for starters. The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

Smoked salmon and olives for starters.

Post dinner gluten-free fruit crumble and coffee. The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

Post dinner gluten-free fruit crumble and coffee.

Smoked salmon from the adult menu for us both to start, as well as some delicious olives. Steak (Lu) and lamb cutlets (for me) followed and we ended with fruit crumble which was already gluten-free, with ice cream, (me) and coffee (me) on one of the wonderful sofas found in the maze of lounges they have. It was all delicious and not one person suggested fruit salad as a pudding. I felt in very very safe hands. We ate in the restaurant for the following two nights also and it was just as lovely each time, the third night we were in a separate bar/dining area, as we had the dog with us but it was the same menu and service was just as lovely. As Lu is a very committed meat eater she ended up with steak from the adult menu on the third night which she devoured.

Olives, non-alcoholic cocktails and evening wear. The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

Olives, non-alcoholic cocktails and evening wear.

The cocktail list was super, and Lu and I took to having a cocktail in the bar before dinner, non-alcoholic for us both and when my husband arrived I plied him with the most amazing sounding ones on the alcohol-fuelled list. Try any of them, you really can’t go wrong.

 

Pudding on the beautiful velvet sofa, The Lygon Arms, Broadway

Pudding on the beautiful velvet sofa.

We had breakfast each morning at the Broadway Deli, which I had found before we got to Broadway, as its website mentioned that it could cater for those with a gluten allergy and as luck would have it it was opposite the hotel. Full of picture-perfect looking fresh produce, cheeses, jams, pasta and the like, we didn’t have to wait for a table and having explained to the wait staff about my allergy I was told it was the policy for management to take allergy orders which is just amazing. I enquired about the toaster arrangements – toasting gluten-free bread in a toaster that is used for gluten-filled bread renders everything not gluten free!!! – and was assured that there was a separate toaster and preparation area for gluten free orders. I had the homemade beans on toast and two excellent strong cappuccinos as Lu has woken me up at about 5.30am in her enthusiasm to not miss the childrens swimming slot at the spa that started at about 9.30am I think. She had the most amazing doorstep bacon sandwich and tea. We returned again on the following 2 mornings and was not disappointed. Toast and marmalade for me, I was concerned about the use of the same jar by those have gluten toast and they happily opened a brand new jar for me, they make there own marmaladed and conserves which I can highly recommend.

 

The Broadway Deli

The Broadway Deli.

The Broadway Deli Marmalade.

The Broadway Deli Marmalade.

The cottage itself had just been completed so there were no photos of it on the website yet but the rest of the hotel looked beautiful so I was willing to take a leap of faith. I was richly rewarded as it was a beautiful typically Cotswolds stone building, set over two floors, bedroom and huge dreamy bathroom upstairs and living area downstairs with a sofa bed, outside there was a little flagstoned patio area with table and chairs. I had originally booked a room in the main hotel for 2 nights but as it turned out it was the bank holiday weekend and Lu asked if we could stay for three nights and have Malcolm bring the dog for the third, as above. After a few emails, it turned out that I couldn’t have my original room in that combination but the cottage would be free though it was a bit more expensive and I decided to treat us. It also had two of my most favourite things that I almost require now when travelling – air conditioning and a Nespresso machine. I am not very good company without these. The coffee is necessary to take the edge off the chronic fatigue syndrome and the air conditioning is required for the horrid sweaty overheating I experience from my steroids.

The Spa, The Lygon Arms, Broadway

The Spa, The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

The Spa was lovely, though I only saw the changing facilities and the pool, there are treatments available. The pool area is beautiful, with a jacuzzi at the far end and loungers for relaxing There were other families using it when we were there but it was not too crowded, we had a lovely time but I was very grateful for my husbands arrival early on Sunday so he could take her while I read the papers in the hotel lounge. I always worry that I’ll be struck down out of nowhere with the exhaustion caused by my illness, which is how it happens, without warning, so I try my best to conserve as much energy as I can so I can enjoy as much time with Lu as possible and not overdo it too much. The grounds of the hotel were immaculately kept and other rooms faced onto the main courtyard and had little seated areas, there was also a large enclosed garden area with benches that was perfect for taking Livia for a little roam.

The Cotswold Tearoom, Moreton in Marsh

The Cotswold Tearoom, Moreton in Marsh.

Gluten-free sweetcorn fritters, The Cotswold Tearoom, Moreton in Marsh.

Gluten-free sweetcorn fritters.

Gluten-free scone, The Cotswold Tearoom, Moreton in Marsh.

The most delicious gluten-free scone.

As I spend most of my travel research looking for gluten-free places to eat I had found a lovely looking place in Moreton in March, about 15 minutes away called The Cotswold Tearoom which did gluten free cakes, my obsession. Lu and I love popped there for lunch on our first full day. Sweetcorn fritters with avocado tomato salsa for me, soup for her, all items are clearly marked gluten-free. I then had a huge gluten free scone with cream and jam. So delicious was it that we returned on our journey home for the scones and took some home with us. As well as a huge bag of cheese, olives, gluten-free crackers and condiments from the gorgeous The Cotswold Cheese Company next door.

 

Took the dog for a roam in the hotel garden before dinner time. The Lygon Arms, Broadway.

Took the dog for a roam in the hotel garden before dinner time.

Livia sleeping soundly while we ate dinner. The Lygon Arms, Broadway

Livia sleeping soundly while we ate dinner.

Whilst in the area we had a little roam around Broadway and Moreton in Marsh, as well as Blockley, another nearby village and they were just beautiful. Though I left my heart in Broadway. I haven’t spent a huge amount of time in the area but took a jaunt to Cheltenham for the Literary Festival last year. I had booked four events but illness meant I only made it to one but it was super all the same. It is also the area that my husband and I have at the top of our list for moving to as we currently still live in separate houses, separate counties. We both have school age children, it’s complicated.

I would return to The Lygon Arms in a heartbeat, we were all very sad to leave, and though it isn’t cheap it was worth every single penny. It would make an amazing treat, and if I am lucky enough to ever go again I shall go without child or dog so I can take advantage of the adult time in the Spa and maybe a lie in.

Review – Newburn Gluten free White Sourdough Artisan Cob

I have been a coeliac for a long time, over 20 years now, and I have seen loads of changes on the food option front which is super, but I never write about it and I’m not entirely sure why because I love reading other peoples reviews and finding out about new products so I though I’d better start.

Now, you have to understand that over the years the offerings of gluten free bread mainly consisted of bread that was as heavy as a house brick or so crumbly that merely picking up a slice can cause disintegration. Also the bread would have to be heated or toasted in order to be edible, and it usually tasted horrid. Trust me, this is not an exaggeration but hings have moved on substantially with loads of main steam companies jumping on the gluten free band wagon which is always a good thing for us coeliacs. So I am sure you can imagine that there was much excitement in the gluten free world when Warburtons announced the launch of their own gluten free range, Newburn,  not least because it was the first proper – i.e. gluten filled -bakery that was tuning its hand to gluten free. The thing that  I miss the most about being gluten free is a fresh crusty white load and here is where Warburtons have cornered a bit of supermarket market. Their brand of Sourdough Cob sells out so quickly at my local Sainsburys that it has become a bit of a treat for me, and I always buy two if they are there. It is very thing I want in my fresh bread, crusty and floury on the outside, beautifully soft on the inside and if I choose to toast it there is the most delicious crunch and it tastes amazing.

IMG_5494IMG_5496IMG_5510

Now before you all start shrieking at the screen that I have fallen prey to hipsterism, yes that is avocado on my toast, just as I have been eating my toast for the last 25 years. See, I’m very old and avocados have been around much longer than Instagram. Newburn also do gluten free Crumpets which I haven’t tried yet and yesterday I got hold of a Orange and Sultana Breakfast Cob, at Waitress, it looks like the Sourdough but sis weet. It was also delicious, not too sweet, just right. I must be honest and say that I ate it straight out of the packet at my desk, no need to toast this delicious offering.

As a side note, I was in  Marks and Spencers recently and saw that they had brought out a gluten free Sourdough loaf, it was so beautiful to look at but it tasted absolutely dreadful, the inside was dry and crumbly, I didn’t even finish one slice before I put the whole lot into the food waste bin. What a shame as M&S are doing so well in the gluten free stakes, they make the best cheesecake and the trifle is delicious. Such a treat.

 

But I can’t help falling in love with you

I love food, I mean everything about it. The history, the preparing, the reading, the eating. It is my passion, and often my reason for being, and it has been for as long as I can remember. I was making choux pastry at 10 years of age, churning my own butter at 11, at 13 I was making hand made filled chocolates, by 14 I had a subscription to US Gourmet magazine, at 16 I decided that I wanted to own my own catering company and live a life revolving around food for the rest of my life. And then life got in the way. A bit of family trauma, a bit of displacement, a violent boyfriend at uni and the diagnosis of coeliacs disease at a time when gluten free bread occasionally still came in tins!

img_5277

Picked up those lovely Goodhousekeeping ones on the left at church fete, complete bargain!

A catering company when I couldn’t taste anything seemed crazy so that idea faded away with sadness and instead I ended up working in the nightclub/bar/restaurant industry. It was hard work, fun, crazy, tiring and a complete buzz. My (ex) husband was extremely successful in his field of nightclubs – I think there is a still a plaque dedicated to him somewhere in the bowels of Fabric! – and we spent our spare time, and money, not clubbing but going to amazing restaurants and bars in the Uk and abroad. Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental remains the best food I have ever eaten, Chris Staines we love you!

img_5283

The ones I requested as Christmas gifts.

I started hosting dinner parties again. 14 people around a table that took up our whole living room in a our tiny basement flat in Notting Hill was not an uncommon event. 8 courses with a wine flight? I’m your gal. all prepared in a kitchen the size of a small wardrobe – the fridge lived in the hallway. Oh how I loved it. I have collected cookery books as long as  can remember, I never part with any of them, I read the recipes for pleasure, they relax me, always have. I was the odd 12 year old at the library borrowing cookery books and then taking them home to type out the recipes as I couldn’t afford to photo copy them and the internet didn’t exist then.

img_5281

Mixers and blenders and whisks, oh my

How could I let this passion slip away from me? I have no idea, it lights me up, makes me feel enthusiastic, it’s my measure of life. if I tire of cookery book I know I have tired of life and am feeling a bit depressed. It is my constant gauge of happiness, its amazing. And yet I never really ever write about it, why? I have no bloody idea so I shall start writing about here, in my tiny space in the internet, and I shall love very single minute of it.

img_5279

Fascinating facts about food. I have re read this three times, never gets boring.

I just don’t know what to do with myself

So, for the last few weeks I have been feeling worse than ever. I realise it seems like I have been sick for ages, and I have, but after a few months of tests it was decided I had Sarcoidosis and after four months off work I started relevant meds and went back to work. The first couple of weeks were fine, I felt energised after making sure I has enough rest, good food, supplements, meditation and lots of water. Then, it all started to go down hill, I was really worried that the sarcoid was starting to get worse again so off to the doctor I went, she arranged an emergency appointment with my Rheumatologist, a few tests later and she talked through my symptoms, chronic pain, extreme fatigue, swollen joints, weight gain and she told me I had Fibromyalgia. I had already started crying at this point, I rarely cry, but the despair was starting to engulf me, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and here was another bloody illness to manage. The list so far in order of diagnosis starting from when I was 20;

Osteporosis

Coeliacs Disease

Bursitits

Autoimmune Hepatitis

Hypothyroidism

Sjogrens Syndrome

Sarcoidosis

Fibromyalgia

IMG_1687

The last four have arrived over the last five months. I am usually so in control of my illnesses, a responsible patient, participatory in my treatment, a really honest and open dialogue with my doctors, I know my illnesses inside and out and they don’t frighten me. I listen to my body and take all in my stride, I’ve never been the type for hysteria.

The Sarcoidosis diagnosis was a relief as we had been considering cancer, Sjogrens is liveable with, dry eyes,mouth etc, the Hypothyroidism is a little more complicated but I am monitored and all is in is order but the Fibromyalgia – I’m not so keen.

The majority of my illnesses are chronic, and those ones are in remission, apart from the Fibromyalgia and from what I can lean it is a difficult one to manage. There are no medications or cures, I have been referred to the Pain Clinic to discuss subtitle medication to enable me to function, but as is always the case nothing is that straightforward. I am allergic to some of the main types of pain meds, the one that don’t really interfere with everyday life, so they are off the menu. Now I shall have to wait and see what they can suggest. I have been signed off work for two more weeks as some of my meds have been adjusted to compensate for the Fibromyalgia and the pain and exhaustion is overwhelming.

IMG_1704

I cannot imagine living like this for the rest of my life and I am panicking like mad, I’m not used to feeling so out of control, usually I just knuckle down, learn all I can about my illness, my body lets me know what I need to and I get on with it. This time its not that simple, nothing I do makes me feel better or more able to cope, I can’t sleep as my mind is swirling, being inside doesn’t help, being outside doesn’t help, reading about it doesn’t help, being with people doesn’t help, being alone doest help, reading, radio, tv doesn’t help,the meds don’t help, and I am worried about the future. What if I become too sick to work, I am a single parent, how can I pay the mortgage? I’m meant to start my Phd in September having deferred it from the beginning of the year due to the Sarcoidosis, what If I’m too sick to start it? My daughter is five, I don’t want her to think of me as ‘sick’ or having the mummy that always needs a ‘rest’. My mum was a single parent and she was sick a lot when I was little and I remember how frightening that was for me. I am becoming depressed, I know that, I can feel it, but I cant seem how to crawl out of the deep well I am falling down, time is running out, I can’t afford to spend what little energy I have trying.

Is this it? The pain may be manageable but the exhaustion? It is crippling and completely uncontrollble. On social media those suffering with chronic illness use #spoonie to identify relevant tweets, this is based onthis article written by Christine Miserandino,  I highly recommend you read it, it is the best explanation I have ever come across (and it uses spoons to explain everything – brilliant).

 

 

 

The Big (gluten free) Apple

It has been many years since I flew anywhere – business or pleasure- so an impromptu invitation to New York was firstly, a complete surprise and secondly, a very welcome break from ‘life’. Being a grown up has been very trying recently – divorce, solicitors, finances – and an escape to a new destination was, literally, just the ticket.

Dont get me wrong, I have travelled quite a bit, my first plane journey was at the age of eight, all on my lonesome, visiting my father who lives very far away (I am the product of divorced parents). In those days your mum handed you over at check in, the nice air stewardess put an ID hanging from a piece of string around your neck and you amused yourself in Duty Free until they found you and put you on your flight.

But I digress. My point being that I love travelling but for some reason have never made it to New York. The only places in America I have visited are Miami – beautiful but expensive – and Las Vegas for my honeymoon (see reference above to divorce! Not that I’m blaming Vegas). I see a clear theme running through these detention choices; they are all locations for the CSI series but that really wasn’t why i chose them. (Ps. I adore CSI, Team Grissom).

So I had four nights and three days to make New York my own. My boyfriend was officially ‘working’ so I was left to my own devises on Friday and then we spent Saturday and Sunday together. For those of you who don’t know, I am a planner, not a “at 9am we are doing this and then we must be at place a. by 2pm’, I take a more ‘organised spontaneity’ approach.

Firstly, I found all the yummy restaurants and coffee places I wanted to try out and then I left the rest to chance. I marked them all very clearly on my map (goodness, am I overly organised?). The reason for this was two fold; I love love love food and I have Coeliacs disease (an intolerance to gluten – barley, wheats, oats and rye), it is a serious disease that is just miserable if you don’t adhere to a gluten free diet, and the long term consequences are grave. So I can’t just go with the flow and eat where ever the fancy takes me therefore I have to be organised.

From the research I did, and the recommendations from fellow gluten freers, New York had a great variety of paces to eat at, top of my list was Lilli and Loo on the Upper East Side, a Chinese restaurant with a gluten free menu. I tweeted with them to confirm they still catered for gluten freers and they sent me a copy of the dedicated gluten free menu which I kept drooling over. In fact, I was so excited about having Chinese food, usually impossible because of the wheat in soy sauce and wheat batter used in some dishes, (including cross contamination issues, ie frying gluten free food in a fryer in which gluten covered items were cooked renders every thing contaminated with gluten) that I planned dinner there twice.

The other big things on my list were pancakes and waffles and I was lucky enough to find two places, Blooms, an old skool diner, around the corner from my hotel, and Friedmans in Chelsea Market. They both had gluten free menus and I tortured myself for ages regarding what I’d choose and, as US portions are simply huge, I wasn’t sure i’d be able to get through more than one dish at each place. That’s where my boyfriend always comes in super handy, I get him to order something else that I’d like to try and then share his. He is a good man, he is not coeliac.