Finland was fantastic for food as a vegetarian and a coeliac

Morning Jo

OK then - here goes:

AIRLINES

Firstly, no airline could cope with the concept of gluten-free and vegetarian, every gluten-free meal supplied involved picking dead animals out of my food first, but at least I thought this might happen and was prepared for it.

QANTAS from Melbourne to Tokyo - dreadful! Departed 2 hours late, no gluten-free meal (which they tried to blame on the travel agent), rude staff, eventually got some Business Class leftovers 1 1/2 hours after Vicky had eaten. My notes for this say "service with a sneer" and that pretty well sums it up. Due to the late departure out of Melbourne which was blamed on ATC (didn't go down well with me) we missed the last bus from Narita literally by about two minutes but were able to find our way easily by train and foot to the hotel.

FINNAIR from Tokyo to Helsinki - much better, better seat pitch, good service, picked my way around the dead fish in my tray and had a reasonable meal. Just such a contrast to the first leg of the trip.

FINNAIR from Helsinki to Stockholm - 45 minute shuttle flight - not much to tell, pretty basic and straightforward

SAS from Copenhagen to Manchester - dire! Reminded me of Ansett about a month AFTER they went broke, first time in many years I have had any trepidation about flying. And absolutely packed with soccer (sorry, football) yobs heading to England for the weekend. Don't think you can really recomend this airline unless they offer a real supercheap option and someone is hunting a bargain.

RyanAir (??) from Liverpool to Paris - great, again a shuttle flight, so nothing much to say, good staff, great service

Cathay Pacific from Paris to Hong Kong - Like all flights very crowded, but quite reasonable service

QANTAS from Hong Kong to Melbourne - Just when I was all set to give QANTAS a major bollicking they came thru - arrived at Hong Kong airport braced for the return trip via Sydney, and was asked if we would mind (???) catching the direct flight to Melbourne that left half an hour earlier instead! Funnily enough, we went with a yes on that and when we boarded, our seats were re-assigned from Row 69(!) to 58 which is the row next to the galley and with an emergency exit door on our right so lots and lots and lots of legroom. Explained the gluten-free and flight change thing to the cabin staff and they were great, helpful, friendly and more than happy to chase food for me even thought it was also a packed flight. Best flight of the trip and just shows what a huge difference the cabin crew make, and we were home by 2130 instead of 0100 next morning.

Again, something should be said to QANTAS about the first flight. I had emergency rations but otherwise the prospect of no food for 10 hours and it WAS their stuff-up is not acceptable.

ACCOMODATION & FOOD

I took copies of the "I am a coeliac and can't eat …" cards printed in all the languages for the countries we visited - well worth the messing about.

Narita - Mercure hotel was very good, location was spot on, very close to the train station and an easy walk to the Narita temple and a great range of gluten-free options for breakfast, both vegie and non-vegie. Gluten-free in Tokyo itself was ok, you just have to search a bit and be prepared to push the dead animal to one side (I think you warned me of this). Evening meal at hotel was one of the best Chinese meals I have had, waiter took "coeliac" card to chef and assured us it would be fine - it was.

Finland - firstly all of Finland was fantastic for food as a vegetarian and a coeliac, I can't wait to go back and eat my fill knowing that people there understand what a gluten-free diet is about. Menus are usually in three languages (Finnish, Swedish and English) and most have a G next to the gluten-free options, plus there is nearly always a choice of cakes for morning and afternoon tea.

Helsinki - Hotel Helka - Great choice of gluten-free food for breakfast and all we had to do was ask and gluten-free bread (better than anything I have seen commercially available in OZ) was brought to our table.

Stockmans Department store cafeteria has a range of gluten-free cakes for afternoon tea, as do most cafes we found as we wandered around.

Maharaja restaurant at Lapinlahdenkatu 9 for dinner - good meal, only use gramm (chickpea) flour so gluten safe

Kynnsilaukka restaurant at Fredrikinkata 22 - The name means Garlic and while the menu does not show which items are gluten-free, the staff know what is and is not OK for the coeliac - this was the best meal of the trip and is very highly recommended.

Tampere - Holiday Inn - upgraded to larger room on arrival, staff mentioned gluten-free. As you said, a very conventional hotel, but good service and no prbs with gluten-free for breakfast

Finlayson Mill museum - great gluten-free lunch at Danish Sandwich shop there - and on the way back from the mill found a little shop that had gluten-free waffles - thought I'd died and gone to heaven! It is called Vohvielikahvila at Ojakatu 2 and is a tiny little shop that you could easily go straight past - look for the waffle on the window.

Turku - Park Hotel - one of the highlights of the trip. Wonderful eccentric little hotel easy walk from train station and to the centre of town. Again, no worries for a gluten-free breakfast
Angel Café - in spite of the name, a rather posh and good restaurant, with a range of choices that were gluten-free and vegie

Found a café (possibly called Ladybird) with a laundromat (perhaps the only laundromat in Finland!)

Stockholm - Gluten-free food MUCH harder to find and very little understanding - no real recommendations just scrabbled for what food I could get. The hotel (RICA Kunsgatan) was very good for gluten-free breakfast though.

Copenhagen - Hotel (Ibis Copenhagen Crown) very cheap and run-down, would advise not to recommend this one as there are others near by that certainly looked better. The only place that had trouble with the gluten-free breakie concept, but it was still possible to get by. I would rate it as struggling to reach 3 star. Veggie restaurant Riz Raz of Stroget very good range of food in a smorgasbord setup and an understanding of gluten-free and what I could and couldn't have.

Hong Kong - Good hotel (Majestic) with a great range of vegie breakfast options ,many of which gluten-free. Hong Kong is easy to find GF food if you are prepared to look around a bit, either cheap and cheerful or more upmarket.

Overall, a great holiday - want to go back to Finland, Japan, Hong Kong and explore some more!

Hope this helps and feel free to drop me an email if there is anything you want to clarify


Greg B

Back