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                               Espana!                   According to Professor Higgins in
                                                         My Fair Lady, ‘the rain in Spain falls
                                                         mainly on the plain’, but the good
                                                         news is that in the summer months
                                                         there’s not much rain at all! And, if
                                                         you’re coeliac, there’s plenty on offer
                                                         to make your trip memorable – and

                                                                 pain is one of the most popular resorts for the British, and
                                                                 it’s easy to see why. Flights and hotels are cheap, as is the food
                                                                 and wine. It’s a country with long, hot summer nights with
                                                         around ten hours of sunshine a day; every summer, temperatures
                                                                        reach an average 31 degrees celsius on the mainland
                                                                        during August and about 28 degrees on the islands; and
                                                                        July and September are only marginally cooler.
                                                                           There are endless stretches of award-winning,
                                                                        golden beaches, with a staggering 373 in mainland
                                                                        Spain receiving the Blue Flag award for cleanliness and
                                                                        environmental safety and sanitation in 2004.
                                                                           This same picture holds true for the various islands
                                                                        around Spain: both Tenerife and Gran Canaria have seven
                                                                        Blue Flag Beaches, Lanzarote has five, Fuerteventura has
                                                                        six, Menorca has 14 and Majorca has 28.
                                                                           Most of the popular beaches offer a full range of water
                                                                        sports but if you fancy something a little more secluded
                                                                        you can hire a car (usually between £100 and £140
                                                         per week, plus insurance), pack a picnic and beat the tourist trap.
                                                            If you’re after the traditional side of Spanish nightlife avoid the
                                                         large bars and look for where the locals go. Spaniards usually start the
                                                         evening with a light stroll through the main square and the harbour
                                                         before finding a street café or bar and socialising until the early hours.
                                                         The atmosphere is always vibrant but relaxed and welcoming.

                                                         Where to go
                                                         In Spain’s main resorts you’ll find a mix of traditional Spanish life
                                                         combined with traditional English pubs and foods. It’s well worth
                                                         hiring a car and taking a trip off the beaten track to discover the other
                                     Enjoy the history   side of Spain with its flamenco dancing, bull-fights, orange groves
                                      and architecture   and sleepy villages with Moorish architecture and castles. Catalonia,
                                         of Barcelona    in particular, is noted for its history with its own ancient language.
                                                            Costa Brava, on the north-east coast, is very close to the city of

26 Crossed Grain magazine • Coeliac UK • Summer 2005
Barcelona and easily reached. It’s well worth checking out the broad,
exciting range of museums there, as well as the city’s breathtaking
football stadium.
   Valencia is on the Costa Blanca and has just as much for the visitor
to do, with a huge variety of history, beaches, theme parks, water
sports and restaurants.
    Madrid is another fascinating and cosmopolitan city, which, despite
its vastness, is easy to navigate round due to the number of helpful
tourist offices and a well-maintained metro system. There’s a lot to
do in a place that’s famed for its culture and shopping, and transport
links are excellent, so even if you’re on the coast you shouldn’t rule
out a visit to one of Spain’s cities.
   Another city worth seeing is Seville, on the Costa del Sol, which is
draped in history and one of the most beautiful in Spain. Not to be
missed is its massive Gothic cathedral which also holds around
500 works of art and dates back to the 1400s and took 125 years to

See Menorca’s breathtaking scenery

How do you say…?
  Here is a list of Spanish phrases that you may
  find useful when you’re eating out
 English                             Spanish
 I have an illness called coeliac    Tengo una enfermedad que
 disease and have to follow a        se llama celiaca y necesito
 strict gluten-free diet.            seguir una dieta rigurosa libre
                                     de gluten.
 Does this food contain flour        Contiene esta comida las
 or grains of wheat, rye,            harinas o granos de trigo,
 barley or oats?                     centeno, cebada o de avena?
 If you are at all uncertain         Si tuviera alguna duda sobre
 about what the food contains,       el contenido de la comida, por
 please tell me.                     favour digamelo.
 I can eat food containing rice,     Puede comer alimentos que
 maize, potatoes, all kinds of       contienen arroz, maiz, patatas,
 vegetables and fruit, eggs,         todo tipo de verdure y fruta,
 cheese, milk, meat and fish         huevos, queso, leche, carne y
 – as long as they are not           pescado – siempre que no
 cooked with wheat flour,            hayan sido preparados con
 batter, breadcrumbs or sauce.       harina de trigo, rebozo, pan
                                     rayado o con salsas.
 Without sauce, please.              Sin salsa, por favour.
 Thank you for your help.            Muchas gracias por su ayuda.
                                                                                                                                          By train: Spain is a great country to see by train due its incredible
                                                             Don’t miss Madrid,                                                        scenery. The trains are mostly modern – and fast. One memorable
                                                             Spain’s capital city                                                      journey takes you from Alicante to Denia on the Costa Blanca and
                                                                                                                                       features deep gorges and white-washed villages. Between Benidorm
                                                                                                                                       and Gata de Gorgos runs the restored Limon Express – it takes
                                                                                                                                       passengers past scenic beaches and idyllic towns.
                                                                                                                                          Spain also has its fair share of steam engines and railway museums
                                                                                                                                       (try The Museo del Ferrocarril in Madrid). The Tren de la Fresa
                                                                                                                                       (Strawberry Train) is one of the best-known and goes from Madrid
                                                                                                                                       to the palace at Aranjuez. The train used to take fresh strawberries
                                                                                                                                       to the capital and to remind passengers of its history, fresh
                                                                                                                                       strawberries are served en route.

                                                                                                                                       Eating out
                                                                                                                                       Many shops sell gluten-free products (bread, pizza bases, biscuits,
                                                                                                                                       flours, croissants etc) while the best shop, in term of availability, is
                                                                                                                                       El Corte Ingles, which is in most big cities. When eating out, always
                                                                                                                                       inform the restaurant of your condition. Coeliac disease has a higher
                                                                                                                                       profile in Spain than here in the UK so you should find restaurants
                                                                                                                                       are helpful and knowledgeable. If you’re in coastal or island areas it’s
                                                                                                                                       worth seeking out local restaurants to try the freshly caught fish and
                                                                                                                                       seafood – often a speciality. As always, be prepared, and contact the
                                                                                                                                       Coeliac Society in your chosen region (see opposite for details).
                                                                                                                                          We asked Spanish reader, Maria Lifante, who now lives in the UK,
                                                                                                                                       if she had any advice for readers. “It is a lot easier to be a coeliac in
                                                            complete. Seville has a great                                              Spain than it is here,” she told us. “That is mainly down to the fact
                                                            range of theatres and museums                                              that the Spanish diet contains less processed food than what’s on
                                                            and good transport links.                                                  offer in the UK. I also recommend that people avoid tapas bars as
                                                                                                                                       they serve mostly bread-based dishes. It is a good idea to steer clear
                                                            Out and about                                                              of restaurant chains and instead eat in independent places where they
                                                            By bus: Buses are cheap and                                                prepare their food from scratch. That way you know what is in the
                                                            well-maintained. Most towns                                                dish and they can leave out ingredients if necessary, like changing
                                                            have a bus station (estacion de autobus) but don’t take it for granted     wheat flour for cornflour. In all the times I have been back to visit my
                                                            that just because you are at the stop the bus will actually stop           family and friends in Spain, if you exclude burger and pizza places,
                                                            – it is best to wave your arms frantically. Also, many city buses only     I have yet to find a restaurant where I couldn’t eat anything.”
                                                            accept the correct change. Try to avoid buses on Sundays and public           One site worth visiting for gluten-free restaurants in Mallorca
                                                            holidays as services are drastically reduced.                              (Majorca), is: (produced by the
                                                               By taxi: Licensed taxis are of a high standard. They show a green       same company as where you can specify
                                                            light when free – you just flag them down. Most taxis are metered and      gluten-free as your speciality diet and get a list of restaurants with
                                                            there’s a set price for certain journeys. Tipping of 5-10% is customary.   photos, contact details and so on.

                                                            Ask the travel agent…
                                                             We asked our researcher, James Hayward, to go “under cover” to see just how helpful travel agents are…

                                                             Going Places: No problem arranging food for a flight but they              they could contact the hotel beforehand to check they can meet
                                                             recommended either going self-catering or to a 4/5 star hotel.             my dietary requirements. However, this would be anything from
                                                             Booking a hotel would take time so that specific needs could be            them preparing me a separate meal to having me eating plain
                                                             met but they didn’t see this as a problem. They recommended                meat and vegetables for a week. Overall helpful, but I left feeling
                                                             Going Places could ring them to see who would be best for                  that I should be grateful that I would at least be able to have plain,
                                                             gluten-free food. Overall very helpful.                                    bland food for a week!
                                                             First Choice: Problems with food on the flight, with the assistant         Thompson: Thompson actually advertises a number for special
                                                             citing that her father had coeliac disease and just took his own           needs (0870 532 9509) on its website – no other operator offered
                                                             food! Suggested trying 4/5 star hotels but said hotels would be            this – which I called. They were helpful and understood my needs
                                                             awkward catering for one person’s needs and again referred to              and apprehensions about travelling abroad. There would be no
                                                             her father who used his own judgement! Overall very poor.                  trouble organising a gluten-free meal on my flight and once I had
                                                             Thomas Cook: I was referred to someone who dealt with                      chosen my hotel they would check their details and see if they
                                                             disabilities and special requirements. She said that there would be        would be suitable, but seemed to want to avoid calling them.
                                                             no trouble organising a gluten-free meal on the flight and that            Overall helpful and willing to go a bit further, but not far enough.

                                                            28 Crossed Grain magazine • Coeliac UK • Summer 2005
Valencia is Spain’s southern treasure

 Help is at hand…
 For tourist information: website:
 Spanish Embassy in London: website:,
 Telephone: 0207 486 8077
 For more details on beaches go to:

 For coeliac societies: there are four in Spain, divided into areas:
 Asociacion de Padres de Celiacos de la Provincia de Las
 Palmas (Gran Canaria), ASOCEPA Asociacion de Celiacos, De la
 Provincia de las Palmas, Apdo Correos 4237, Las Palmas E-35080
 Telephone: +34 (9) 28 55 04 54; e-mail:

 S.M.A.P Celiacs de Catalunya is Catalonia (Barcelona,
 Costa Brava, Costa Dorada), S.M.A.P Celiacs de Catalunya,
 Comtal 32 5e 1a, Barcelona, 08002 Spain
 Telephone: +34 (93) 412 17 89; fax: +34 (93) 412 03 82;

 F.A.C.E. - E.Z.E. Asociacion Celiaca de Euskadi (North-east
 Spain: Bilbao, San Sebastian-Donostia, Vitoria-Gasteiz), F.A.C.E. –
 E.Z.E. Asociacion, Celiaca de Euskadi, Somera 3-3 Depto 2,
 Bilbao; E-48005 Spain
 Telephone: +34 (94) 416 94 80; fax: +34 (94) 416 94 80

 F.A.C.E. (Federation of Associated Coeliacs Spain which brings
 together all regions), F.A.C.E., C/Hileras 4-5, 28013 Madrid, Spain
 Telephone: +34 (91) 54 75 411; fax: +34 (91) 54 10 664;

 None of these websites is in English but if you contact them
 they will provide a gluten-free food list as well as details of places
 where gluten-free foods are on sale.

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