So last week I visited the happiest place on earth, Disneyland Paris!
But is it really the happiest place on earth for a restricted eater? Maybe not so much….
Now don’t get me wrong I had the time of my life and am definitely going to go back sooner rather than later. However, this time I will do the 3 P’s:
Our trip was booked by my friend who knows me as good as I do and is well aware of all my major food allergies and intolerance. So I had no issues in her booking my holiday and the girl did good!
We had spoken for many hours about what I could eat whilst on holiday, from in flight meals to accessing meals in the Disney park and we had done lots of research about where we can go, can we pre-book meals and how to say certain phrases in French so my allergies and intolerances could be understood by the cast members (park employees are called cast members).
Now I did take some “food” with me basically biscuits, porridge and tea bags but I soon realised that was not going to be enough.
We flew from Liverpool airport; if you’ve never been it a lovely little airport with a few choice shops and places to eat. As it was a morning flight and we hadn’t eaten we decided on breakfast at Frankie and Benny’s, as I have eaten there many times before and was aware of there gluten free menus. What I didn’t realise, nor did my friends (one actually works at a Frankie and Benny’s too) is that airport restaurants don’t have the same menu options as “regular” restaurants, meaning bye bye multiple gluten free choices. Now they did have omelettes as the choice for gluten free but I do not like them, so I asked if I could have just side dishes. There was no issues with that so I ordered baked beans, fried eggs and a mushroom, and it was delish!
Top tip: If you cant find a meal on a menu, ask if you can just order sides, I do this all the time as most of the sides are gluten free, lactose free, vegan and vegetarian and I’ve never had any issues doing this.
Now I am a terrible flyer, so with anxiety in toe the smaller portion size of just side dishes was just right for me, if this however was a no flight day or your a better flyer than me the limited option choices would have not be sufficient to call a “meal”.
Whilst at Disney we stayed at the Kyriad Hotel which is a partner hotel to Disneyland Paris, meaning its not in the park itself but is associated with Disneyland Paris. On arrival, worn out from my anxious flight, hungry and in need of a drink I spotted a slushie machine and purchased one as quick as my hands could go. Whilst at the bar I noticed the menus and thought I’d have a gander see what I was up against.
Wow, so little choices for Gluten free, lactose free or even vegetarian never mind the combination of all 3. A lot of meat, pasties, pizza and pasta. On speaking to the bar staff asking what gluten free option they have they gave me a tiny box which had 1 small pasta pot in it, 3 biscuits and cookie. Now not to sound offensive but they looked like they had been there for a long time, not in the greatest condition and certainly not appealing. So i opted for a ice cream and took the yuckie belly for a few hours, not like it stopped me going to the park seconds later!
however on my last day i spotted a vegetarian salad in the bar fridge and i snapped it up! It was just what I needed a crisp fresh salad and not to badly priced either. There were salads available but of an evening on return from the park they were always gone.
If you have not visited a Disney Park before these places are huge! There 3 elements to Disneyland Paris; Disneyland Park, Disney Village and Walt Disney Studio Park.
Disneyland Park is dived into different areas to explore all with individual themes like Main street USA, Adventureland and Fantasyland. All these areas have restaurants, cafes and street vendors associated with their theme.
Disney Village has many different restaurants from McDonalds, Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood and New York Style sandwiches; as well as many shops.
The Walt Disney Studio Park like Disneyland Park is divided into themed areas including Front Lot, Toon Studio and Production Courtyard all with restaurants and street vendors..
All 3 areas have street vendor and shops you can purchase snacks from, like crisps, popcorn, pancakes and sweets. And all have restaurants and cafes but do all provided for restrictive eaters?
I understand I’m rare so may say weird; so far I have yet to meet someone who is lactose free, gluten free and vegetarian. So I don’t expect eateries to provided multiple choices of meals for me, but at least 1 would be nice. What I wasn’t expecting is the lack of even 1 choice in some places, apart from chips!
Now I’m not shy to a sneaky portion of chips but when there your staple meal for 4 days even I struggled.
Before we arrived me and my friends did some research on accessible food for all and found that Disneyland provide a special allergen-free meals by Natama which cover 16 food allergies and is available in many restaurants and cafes, or so they booklet says.
I collected my booklet from the guest services at city hall on Main Street USA, this booklet was so important to me as most of the cast members I interacted with in the eateries when asking for gluten free options either said chips or salad and did not offer the Natama menu. Now the salad options were visually less appealing than the chips and the only vegetarian option was cheese.
Natama meals are free from 16 allergens including peanuts, lupin, fish, molluscs, gluten, milk and egg; the menu has a choice of 2 starters, 4 mains and 3 puddings. So I felt somewhat safe with these options, however the booklet states that they can not guarantee cross contamination as all meals are prepared in the same restaurant as allergens. What the booklet doesn’t inform you is that the meals are microwavable ready meals, small portions and quiet expensive compared to some other meals in regard to quantity .v. cost.
Whilst at Disneyland Paris I found an eatery that actually had a Natama meal available, I opted for the vegetarian pasta as it was the only vegetarian option the meal was €9.99 and was small. For a few euros more my friend got half a chicken and chips a drink and a brownie at the same place. The manager microwaved it for me and gave it to me in its little pot on my tray. Never have I seen such a depressing food tray.
I eat a lot of pasta and vegetable and its one of my favourites; however, because the Natama meals have no allergens in them, no sauce or seasoning mine was bland. Now i can’t speak for the rest of the menu as I did not try them (maybe next time) but the main vegetarian option was very disappointing.
I really appreciate Disney researching and developing a meal plan for those with allergies, but for the cost of the product compared to the size and flavour depth it is poor, and I was a little offended the only option was a microwavable meal.
Whilst at Disneyland Paris I would suggest anybody with restricted food requirements collects a booklet and actually shows the cast members the booklet when ordering food as many of them didn’t offer the Natama menu when asking for gluten free options.
Places I found to get my munch on….
Many of the restaurants and cafe have chips and salad, and the chips are very nice! But the best places I found to eat were Planet Hollywood and New York Style Sandwiches. We visited Planet Hollywood 2 days in and by that point I was starving; so to see a 3 page gluten free menu was almost tear educing.
(Please excuse the wobbly photo, generally think I was shaking with excitement!)
I decided on 2 meals, not because I was that hungry, although I was, I was thinking meal planning.
I decided on the veggie burger with salad, no more chips! for my main meal
and a margherita pizza for tomorrow. As I knew I was struggling finding actual food that was crisps or chips, if i ordered a pizza to take away, take it home and pack it as lunch for tomorrow my anxiety will be better and I wouldn’t have to constantly be thinking where I can eat.
Now I had heard that you can’t take your own food into the Disney park and they have signs up saying picnics to be eaten outside the park, but I took food and snacks in each day and was never stopped. Good job too or I would have been a very hangry bunny by day 4!
New York Style Sandwiches was a last day find and I wish it hadn’t been. My biggest issue was that we were aloud into the park early at 9:30 as annual pass holders but none of the eateries opened until 11:30. However in the Disney village some eateries opened earlier than 11:30 so you can get breakfast. I had circled that village several times looking for food with little to no success, but I had never tried New York Style Sandwiches as the word “sandwich” is normally not a gluten free style foodie place. But this morning I tried and to my delight they served gluten free crackers and little bun cakes. I opted for the crackers and they have free jam so jammie crackers was my breakfast and oh boy were they tasty! I actually purchased 2 packets so I can take one them into the park to nibble and they were really well priced too, 2 packets for less than €4.
The plan for next time….
So even with all the issue I faced with accessing food I could eat without getting unwell, would I go again? Yes, most definitely.
Would I do anything differently? Yes, most definitely.
Next time I will make sure half my luggage is filled with snacks and foods that will keep for a few days unrefrigerated, I will make sure I have my Natama menu booklet at hand to prompt the cast members when ordering meals and I will sneak food into Disney like a squirrel with a nut horde!
I will never forget my first trip to Disneyland Paris even with all my issues surrounding meals, but you can only learn and next time I shall do the 3 P’s and enjoy myself even more. Thank you Disney for making this girls dreams come true!
A dream is a wish your heart makes, when your fast asleep….
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