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
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
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
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.
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: www.mallorca-restaurants-121.com (produced by the
By taxi: Licensed taxis are of a high standard. They show a green same company as gluten-free-onthego.com) 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…
PICTURES COURTESY OF THE TURESPAÑA/SPANISH TOURIST OFFICE
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: www.spain.info
Spanish Embassy in London: website: www.tourspain.co.uk,
Telephone: 0207 486 8077
For more details on beaches go to: www.blueflag.org
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.