Food Allergy Travels to Edinburgh, Scotland and Beyond

Last week was school vacation (here they call it ‘holiday’), so I went traveling. I met my roommate, her sister, and her best friend in Edinburgh, Scotland for the beginning of the week. It was such a welcome relief to travel to a country where I spoke the language fluently. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that dealing with my food allergies would be any easier.

When I arrived in Edinburgh, it was around dinner time. My roommate and friends arrived a few hours earlier, so I went to the apartment that we were staying at to leave my bag. Afterward, we met for dinner at a pub. I had my English chef card to use, which was nice, since I am used to trying to communicate in Italian. I was able to get a chicken breast sandwich which was delicious!

The owner of the apartment that we were staying in stocked the refrigerator with food. There was plenty for me to eat, which was amazing. There was fresh cheeses, fruits, yogurt and cereal. It made everything that much easier, since I had no time to find a grocery store before our tour through Scotland the next morning. Of course I did pack some food which always helps, but having all those fresh foods that I was able to eat was truly exceptional.

My friends and I had an exquisite day seeing the Scottish countryside. We went on a small tour bus, with only 15 people in total. It made it a nice, personal experience. We made quite a few stops along the way. Around lunch time, we stopped by Lochness to get lunch. Of course I had packed food but my friends hadn’t, so we went and sat in a pub for lunch. As we were sitting at the table I noticed all the packets of condiments.

I have never found condiments that “contained” or “may contain” every single allergen that I can think of. It was crazy! It seemed like the company that made the condiments was saying, “we are not responsible for anything in our products, so don’t even think about trying them!”

When I see packages like that, it’s frustrating. I am sure it probably does not contain or even has the likelihood of containing some of those allergens, but we live in a world so scared by lawsuits, that they feel they need to literally put every single allergen on their ingredient list to avoid any potential issues. Crazy!

In Scotland, one of the main products they sell is shortbread cookies. Of course, although there are only a few basic ingredients in them, like sugar and butter, they are “not suitable for nut allergy sufferers.” Apparently I “suffer” from nut allergies.

Besides the minor packaged ingredient warnings, I didn’t come across any other difficulties or disappointments in Scotland. Back in Edinburgh, my friends left two days before me, so I found a quaint bed and breakfast to stay at. The people were friendly and helpful, and were happy to accommodate my allergies for breakfast in the morning. I took myself out to dinner and drinks, and had a lovely time exploring the city. I also found Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that I could eat. It was my first ice cream in months, so that was the perfect way to end my evening!

After Scotland, I took a train to Leeds to see one of my good friends who is from there. Before I left, my friend, Gemma, had sent me an e-mail checking to see if there was anything in particular I wanted for food, and letting me know that she had cleared all allergens out of her apartment. I thought that it was so sweet of her to remember and think of that before my arrival. I’m lucky to have such caring friends!

We went out to eat with no problems, and had a wonderful time visiting. On the weekend we went to see another close mutual friend and his girlfriend who live in Manchester. They also had e-mailed before I was coming, asking the same questions and making sure I would be completely comfortable. How lucky am I to have these people in my life who are so aware, yet never make it such a massive deal?!

During the day, we went out to lunch with no problem. I had delicious raviolis at an up scale Italian restaurant. My friend, Alex, his girlfriend, Babs, Gemma, and I wandered around Manchester for the afternoon. Babs had a free hand massage from buying products over the holidays, and booked for the three girls to go get one. Of course all of the products ended up having sweet almond oil in them, so I sat and watched. They felt bad, but it was okay (although of course I wish I also could have participated)!

Later that evening, after having a drink at a neighborhood pub near their beautiful apartment, we went back to have dinner. Babs insisted on making it all by herself and did an excellent job making risotto. She was so sweet about my allergies and I didn’t once feel worried about eating there. It was a fabulous way to end an amazing holiday!

Trips like this make me realize a few things. One, is how much easier it is to communicate in my native language, and how at home I take that for granted when ordering out. I also realize how lucky I am to have friends who are so understanding and caring, and although we only see each other every few years, still remember about my allergies and don’t treat me any different because of them. Thank you, friends! :)

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