2. Request the special meal on the plane, but have your own too. We flew USAir from Philadelphia because we wanted a non-stop flight and they had the best price ($1,000 apiece.) We booked on-line and there is no way with USAir to order a special meal without calling them up. You have to find the secret phone number (the info is here: http://shopping.usairways.com/en-US/traveltools/intheair/foodandbeverages/specialmeals.html). They do offer a gluten-free special meal, but nothing for gluten-free vegetarians, so if you are a vegetarian like me, you will certainly want to pack your own food anyway. On the way there I traded my fish for my friend’s fruit salad. On the way home, I ate the rice but left the chicken breast. The main meal they served, if you are omnivorous, looked pretty good. Their supplemental snack near the end of the flights was a pretty sad affair by anyone’s standards.
3. In addition to your food for the plane, pack gluten-free provisions. I packed plenty of gluten-free on-the-go-type foods in the suitcase that I checked which was great, since navigating label-reading at the grocery store and finding equivalent products the health food store were a bit of a challenge. Udi’s bagels were a must (I also packed my toaster sleeve!) And one thing to note: Parisians apparently don’t eat peanut butter. I finally found it at the health food store Naturalia, but it looked like an import from Germany. Go figure!
4. That said, find the Monoprix (grocery store) and Naturalia and various outdoor markets to see what culinary life in Paris is like, and to buy cheese and veggies etc (Monoprix and markets) and any gluten-free crackers or cereal or whatever to have on hand (Naturalia).
5. Take a cutting board and appropriate utensils. Our apartment was great, but the cutting boards and spoons were all wooden and could have been a big source of cross-contamination. I made due without getting a new cutting board, but I did buy a plastic spatula that I could use on the non-stick pans without worry. I brought it home and now I think of Paris every time I use it.
6. Before you go, get/make a list of gluten-free friendly restaurants by arrondissement, with notes about hours and days, and follow them on Facebook. I didn’t realize until I got there that arrondissement number = zipcode. For example, the Louvre in the 1st arrondissement which is in 75001. This made it much easier to identify our likely lunch or dinner venue based on what we were going to be doing that day. Be sure to double check their hours. Unsurprisingly, their websites and Facebook pages are IN FRENCH, so I goofed a couple of times and took us to restaurants that weren’t open. Since I don’t speak French I was reluctant to call ahead. Get over this fear and save yourself many extra miles on your already tired feet! Carry your list around with you. I'll post my list here soon, I promise!
7. Get a weekly Paris Metro (public transportation) pass. For around 24 euros, you can go everywhere. This gets you to and from your apartment to museums and those far flung gluten-free dining gems. If you are from a city and are familiar with subways, it’s actually easier to use than many. Here’s a website that explains it: http://parisbytrain.com/paris-train-metro-week-pass-navigo-decouverte/
8. Have a plan each day. It’s much less stressful if you know when and where your meals are coming from each day. Even if you don’t decide until the night before or the morning of, have a concrete picture of how you expect to get your nutritional needs met safely. If you don’t plan and get hungry while you are out and about, you are more likely to make risky decisions.
9. Plan for picnics. Paris is loaded with great parks, gardens and random green spaces. Take advantage of them! Be one of those people who lounge about, looking tranquil and eating apple slices with brie and drinking sparkling water. We planned a picnic and happened upon a flash dance mob (that conjures an image, doesn’t it?) Actually we think it was just an outdoor dance rehearsal in a park, but it was fun to watch and a really excellent Paris experience.
10. Take pictures of the food, the place and the menu to help you remember where you had the best success. Post them on-line! Sell your list on Fiverr.com! Tell others in the gluten-free community where you had success so that we can live vicariously through you and we can collectively have pleasantly memorable international travel experience.