One of the perks of blogging is meeting awesome people. I met Michael Savett, author of the awesome site Gluten-Free Philly, a few years ago through blogging and Twitter. His website is an impressive bank of information about Philadelphia and beyond. Michael’s son has Celiac and his dedication to finding gluten-free food for his son is admirable. Michael and his family recently took a family trip to Orlando followed by a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas. Since Orlando and all things Disney are close to the bottom of my travel list (truth, not even on it!), I asked Michael to share his stories of his summer vacation.
Gluten-Free Philly Goes to Orlando and the Bahamas
I can’t compete with the fabulous trips that your esteemed Gluten-Free Globetrotter has taken. Thailand, Italy and the Czech Republic likely are out of reach until my wife and I become empty nesters. Until then, it’s less exotic destinations like Walt Disney World and the Caribbean islands. I’m not complaining, though, as we spent a fantastic week this summer in Orlando and the Bahamas, the latter via Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas.
As you’ll read, both Disney and Royal Caribbean excelled at gluten-free food preparation and made our 12-year-old son feel at home. At Disney, food-service managers oversee all aspects of a gluten-free order, while on Royal’s dinner menus, the many gluten-free appetizers, entrees and desserts were labeled.
Vacationers get away to enjoy themselves. Disney’s and Royal seamless accommodation of gluten-free diets make it easy for guests to do so and establish a model for other resort operators to follow.
Click the links below to read Michael’s full posts about his summer vacations.
A lot of blogs do “wordless Wednesday” posts where they only post a picture. I decided to change it up and do “Photo Friday.” Starting today, I will post a photo every Friday. I am constantly taking pictures of food and places, so it will be one or the other. All pictures I post will be my own personal photos, unless otherwise noted. I don’t want a lot of words, so I’m shutting up now.
Call me crazy, but I like visiting supermarkets in different countries. First of all, it is an easy way to purchase naturally gluten-free products such as fruits and vegetables as well as staples like bottled water. Second of all, it gives you a interesting, local perspective of the town/city/country you are in. Whenever I build my travel maps for my location, I make sure to find at least one local supermarket to add to the map.
When doing my Aruba research, I found three supermarkets all in Oranjestad. On an island full of time-shares with kitchens, I am sure it would be helpful to have supermarkets nearby. Not really knowing how big or small Aruba was, I wasn’t sure if I could easily get to these supermarkets. As my cab drove farther and farther from the airport, I realized getting to these markets wouldn’t be as easy as I had hoped. Luckily, I got a local newspaper and saw an advertisement for Unicasa Supermarket which looked to be within walking distance of the hotel. I confirmed with my new friend Adella at the concierge desk and she said I could definitely walk there.
I never made it to Unicasa but did find Kong Fui, an Asian supermarket, also within walking distance of the highrise hotel section of Aruba and on your way to/from Linda’s Dutch Pancakes. A HUGE Asian market in the middle of the Caribbean seemed a bit out of place to me, but I went there to do some light shopping. I like to pick up things like yogurt, fruit, and juice so I have something to eat at breakfast every day. Most of the countries I have traveled to have safe produce, but be sure to check ahead of your travels to see what is safe to eat locally. I also buy diet soda or bottled water at the supermarket because it is much cheaper than the hotel vending machines or bars.
Here are the list of the supermarkets I found in Aruba. I cannot confirm if any of them actually sell gluten-free products, but they are full service supermarkets.
Kong Fui (2 locations): Palm Beach 17 and Meiveld 53
Interestingly, Kong Fui was a full supermarket on the first level and apparently a full department store including clothes, stationary, and electronics on the upper levels. Since I was only going for food, I never made it upstairs.
Super Food (a Dutch chain on the island): L.G. Smith Blvd #156, Oranjestad with a new location coming soon closer to the high-rise hotels.
How I wish I was laying on your soft, sandy beaches and soaking up your sunny rays. Only 20 miles off the coast of Venezula, a former Dutch colony, arid desert conditions, some killer trade winds, and limited gluten-free options on your island threw me for a few loops this vacation. It took me a few days to fall for you, but now I did and I want to see you again.
I did discover my dream job while in Aruba… driving ATVs in the desert. I have traveled a lot and this is by far one of the best things I have ever done in my life! Surrounded by cacti and the sea with sand in my hair and sea breeze on my face, I was happier than I have been in months. Check out the photo for proof.
Some might wonder why it took me a few days to find my Aruban groove, especially when surrounded by sunshine and beach which are two of my absolutely favorite things. Well, first of all, I found Aruba to be a couples paradise. Everywhere I looked there were couples. Normally, I am unfazed by this but for some reason it really struck a chord with me in Aruba. I love traveling solo but Aruba seemed to be somewhere I should be with someone. (This is why I won’t solo trek to Hawaii.) Add a day 2 of horrible sunstroke with skin that was painful to the touch and a fever to boot and it was the perfect storm of my solo traveler homesickness. After a half- day pity party, lots of shade and ibuprofen, and practically a bath full of aloe I felt much better.
I took an amazing ATV tour, swam daily in the Caribbean Sea, connected with some great (and hot!!!) locals, finished my book on the gorgeous beach, and danced my a$$ off (even making it on to the night club’s website) the last few days of my trip. It was during this time that I realized as much as I love relaxing and tanning on the beach, I also love being active on vacation. I try to see and do a lot during my time abroad but somehow this actually relaxes me. It was reassuring to read this article when I got home and realize that I am not alone.
I have a few posts that I will put up over the next few days, but unfortunately there was not a lot of gluten-free food on the island. I don’t eat shellfish or seafood, so I felt a bit limited during the week. I also think I took a few risks during the week that other gluten-free folks might not have taken. In the meantime, here is a quick rundown of my week in Aruba.
Gluten-FreeGlobetrotting Aruba Picks Hotel: Holiday Inn Aruba Food: Linda’s Dutch Pancakes and Pizza, Le Petit Cafe, Aromi d’Italia, Iguana Joe’s, Cafe Rembrandt, Kong Fui Supermarket Fun: Cheri Quad & Bike Rental, Arikok National Park, Sopranos Piano Bar, Gusto, Occidental Casino
I am back from a fabulous, sun-filled week in Aruba. Although there were some strong trade winds most of the week, the weather was in the high 80s every day which made this beach-loving New Yorker quite happy.
As you know, I did my research before heading to Aruba and found multiple mentions of Linda’s Dutch Pancakes including a review by a fellow NYC gal on GF in the City and lots of posts on my favorite travel-planning resource, Trip Advisor. With all of the great reviews, I knew this was a key destination on my Aruba list.
I went for dinner at Linda’s Dutch Pancakes and Pizza on my second night in Aruba. The restaurant was about a 15-minute walk from the high-rise hotel area in Aruba. Street signs are pretty much non-existent in Aruba so to get there turn onto Palm Beach road with Benihana and Sopranos Bar on the corner. Keep on walking until you pass Kong Fui Supermarket on your right and Valero Gas Station on your left. Linda’s is the first restaurant in a strip of restaurants just past the gas station. I was a bit nervous walking there by myself at dusk and almost turned around when I didn’t see it, but don’t give up. It’s worth the walk and Aruba is quite safe.
For those of you that don’t know, Aruba is an island in the southern Caribbean only 27km off the coast of Venezuela. It is a former colony of the Netherlands and now an independent entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, hence the Dutch influence everywhere on the island.
When I arrived, I immediately asked the waitress for a gluten-free menu and she eagerly pointed out everything I could eat. The menu was clearly labeled with gluten-free items. I also mentioned that I had read about their gluten-free menu online so she said she would send out Stefan, the manager. Immediately I felt comfortable eating at Linda’s. Whether at home or abroad, this personal connection with the staff makes this gluten-free customer feel at ease.
Stefan, the manager at Linda’s, was great. He told me that his mother Linda (who unfortunately passed away last year) had to eat gluten-free. Linda started serving gluten-free a couple of years ago when she realized that more and more customers were asking for traditional Dutch pancakes to be made gluten-free. After adding the gluten-free pancakes to the menu, they added gluten-free pizza as well. Stefan orders his gluten-free flour directly from Amazon.com since they are one of the only websites that will ship to Aruba.
For my first dinner at Linda’s, I decided on a traditional Dutch pancake since I never had one before. There were so many toppings to choose from but I chose ham and Gouda cheese, a traditional Dutch cheese. The pancake came out and it was HUGE. I was starving and determined to eat the whole thing. I finished about 80% of the monster gluten-free pancake, but just could not finish it. The price was reasonable for Aruba, which I found to be VERY expensive for food. For a diet Coke, the gluten-free pancake, and a tip, I spent about $16.00 US (around 28.00 AWG, the Aruban currency).
I knew I wanted to check out Linda’s again before I left, so I headed there for my last dinner on Aruba. This time, I debated between pizza or another pancake but opted for the sweet. Hey, I was on vacation and wanted to eat dessert for dinner. Stefan came out and went over all of the fruit toppings to tell me what was fresh or frozen. I thought this was a really nice touch. I decided on a Nutella and banana gluten-free Dutch pancake for this repeat visit. One word for this dinner: DELICIOUS
First of all, you really cannot go wrong with Nutella. I can eat it right out of the jar sometimes. The best thing about this pancake was that the Nutella wasn’t smeared on top of the pancake but baked right into the batter. I am totally going to try this the next time I make pancakes at home. Check this baby out:
This time around there was nothing left on the plate. I devoured that pancake and probably could have eaten a second. It was that good.
Linda’s Dutch Pancakes and Pizza is open 8am to 10pm every day except Sundays when they are closed. The restaurant was not crowded on either of my visits, but they do take reservations. If you are going to Aruba during the busy season, it might be worthwhile to call ahead. There is indoor and outdoor seating available. It was Aruba and it was February and although the view as of the parking lot I opted to sit outside both times. I am very happy I went to Linda’s twice and honestly probably could have eaten there at least once more if I wasn’t being lazy on the beach.
Thank you to the staff at Linda’s Dutch Pancakes and Pizza for providing me with safe, gluten-free food in your beautiful country!