Saturday, 17 May 2014

Travelling Eurostar with the Dairy Free Baby and Me!

Once the holiday at Euro Disney, or Disneyworld Paris was booked, the next step was deciding how to get there.

'Til now, all our holidays since 'Baby' (bar one) have been in the UK - so we can travel by car. Our only journey abroad with her had also been by car. The two day trek through France is still etched quite firmly on our memory. Of course she's older now, but... the scars remain!!

The advantage of travelling by car is that you can take as much as you can fit into your car (ours is a people carrier, I love the space) and have flexibility to go where you want, whenever you want once you reach your destination. So if you need to source free from food, from somewhere, you can. I love the sense of security that gives me! 

See, I like taking EVERYTHING I can!


'Let's go by train,' suggested The Hub. 

'Eeeeeek!' I thought. Let go of my security blanket?? 

'What if we need to find 'safe' food??' was my primary consideration. But also, I'm not the lightest of packers - I always feel the need to pack for every eventuality... 

Yet... I was strangely allured by the adventure... and attracted by the speed - I knew a drive would take much longer and would leave The Hub more tired.

We did also discuss flying, but decided that it would be no quicker that the train, once you allowed for hanging around in airports - where (if flights were delayed) we could be left wondering where we were going to get supplies of 'safe' food from!

Still, I was concerned about the food situation on board the train!

Living in the South of the UK, we could have taken the Eurostar from St. Pancras in London, or Ebbsfleet. However, we discounted that, on the basis that travelling through London might take a fair bit of time in itself. 

Instead we plumped for Ashford, in Kent, from whence it would take a mere two hours to get to Disneyworld Paris. This meant less food to worry about! As the train left at 11.00 am English time. 12.00/12.30 pm being 'Baby's usual lunch time, we just needed to think about lunch.

LOVE the Disney theming at Ashford station!

And there's more!

We did enquire about food on board the Eurostar. If you travel Premier class, food is included and you can book special diets. See here

They do Vegan, dairy free or gluten free, or a child's meal, but nothing that combines more than one option, so we soon decided against paying the extra - I needed a combination of gluten and dairy free, at the very least, and there was no mention of dairy free children's meals (we have the same problem with travelling by plane)! Other than that, the food in the buffet car was basically Waitrose snacks and sandwiches - nothing notably dairy and gluten free. 

That meant taking a packed lunch.


The outward bound journey

As I mentioned in our previous post, we stayed overnight at Premier Inn, and breakfasted at the Beefeater next door, to avoid missing the train due to any mishaps. Therefore, we were able to take our electric cool box to the hotel, buy provisions from the nearby Sainsbury's (after we'd checked in) and keep it overnight, ready for the next day.

Just look at all the Free From in the Sainsbury's at Ashford!

The cool box was too heavy to lug along with all our luggage, so the next day it had to stay in the car in the long stay car park (I have seen smaller ones online, but they come with mixed reviews, so we decided not to risk it). I took just an ice pack, for our lunch, that I'd been keeping cool in the ice box (OK it wasn't frozen by morning, but still quite cold). The Hub dropped us at the station with all our stuff. Only this time, rather than a boot full, we just had one trolley of luggage! You may like travelling light, but for me, this was a real departure! 

Look! The trolley even took the pushchair!

There is some food and drink to be had at Ashford station - both before and after you check in. We didn't explore it much, but it looked pretty much standard fare, for a station, so probably not up to catering for us. We did buy a banana though!

One thing I really liked about Ashford was the toys for little ones at the station. There wasn't much, but being new to her, they kept 'Baby' amused until it was time to board the train. 

Let's play!

The toilet facilities were pretty good too! Though no photos of those, you understand! :)

Just a little warning - boarding was quite frantic. It was literally chuck your stuff on and hope to reorganise it once you were all on board as the train left pretty pronto - two minutes before time, in fact!

Once on board, as we'd booked seat in a family area, it meant that 'Baby' made friends. The family area allowed the children to spread themselves out a little bit, and make some noise without disturbing others. This certainly helped the time to pass for the children and gave us a chance to chat too! Also, in these seats, we were near the loos!

Lunch was simple. 'Baby' had Sainsbury's ham between slices of Sainsbury's bread.

'Baby' likes open sandwiches best.

I plumped for some beetroot falalfel, which I bought the day before. Ironically they were from Waitrose - just like the food on board! These were accompanied by Warburton's gluten free bread and some salad.

They looked a bit strange but tasted alright!

Fortunately, I also had a supply of our Anzac cookies - great in a situation like this, 'cos they're quite filling! In fact, as it turned out, they came in handy throughout our time at Disney!

The return journey

The return journey was at 6 pm in Paris (5 pm English time). So around tea time.

There are no supermarkets or convenience stores at the Disneyworld end of this journey - only restaurants, gift shops and sweet shops. So, you cannot expect to buy food there. Our return journey was only accomplished with the help of Ronald Mac Donald. 

I kid you not! 

Unfortunately, we had to rely on Mac Donald's quite a lot, but at least we could!

In fact, the station at the Paris end is much more basic than the English end, and check-in was a complete rush, so it was impossible even to pick up a cold drink from a machine!!

Luckily, The Hub had a plan! It may have only been a fast food plan, but needs must when you're in a strange land. We went it to Mac Donald's in the Disney Village, about half an hour before we were due to check-in. There The Hub bought 'Baby' yet another Happy Meal, and me? Just a pack of fries!  :(  

Not that he was being mean, you understand - that's all I could have, as they were out of salad!

More important to me, though, was that 'Baby' had enough. I was fairly full from a late lunch anyway and... I'm not exactly wasting away!! 

However, watching The Hub tuck into his burger and chips and 'Baby' into her Happy Meal, I did wish (and not for the first time) that Mac Donald's would roll out the gluten free buns they sell in Sweden across all their restaurants - world wide... or hey! That special diets were catered for more widely. Still, I had one or two of those ANZAC biscuits remaining. One thing's for sure, those mothers of the First World War, THEY knew how to sustain the weary and hard pressed - those cookies are not only yummy, they're also actually quite filling and remain soft even when made gluten free.  :)

And weary we certainly were - not that we were the only ones - 'cos as The Hub went to get us some coffee from the on-board buffet car, he noted that up and down the train the kids were all still going strong, but all the adults looked exhausted!!

C'est la vie!!

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