My California adventure part 2

After dropping off our hire car in San Francisco after driving from San Diego to Monterey we picked up our home for the next 9 days. An RV from Cruise America was to be our transport and home on wheels . I have to be honest our van had seen better days ! Grubby and stained comes to mind with an engine which heated my footwell to crazy levels after only about an hour into a journey.

The first destination was Yosemite national park . Staying at Yosemite pines a beautiful quiet sight on the edge of the park . After picking up provisions and cheap barbeque from Trader Joe’s and Walmart  we made the tough 150 mile trip in our cumbersome van.


Yosemite national park is a must do , stunning scenery . A place I’d love to return to one day.  11 days into our adventure I really was feeling shattered. I did wonder before taking on this holiday how I would cope , sadly my fears were starting to become reality . For most healthy people of my age this trip would be a walk in the park, but for me this was an enormous undertaking.

The drive into the park itself takes quite some time about 1.5 hours its such a huge place. We chose to take a free coach in , most campsites are a similar distance away.

Gorgeous weather greeted us,  31 degrees which I’m sure helped the old bones !

El Capitan was as awesome as you would expect as was the lower and upper Yosemite falls. We stood in awe watching climbers heading towards the summit.


On the second day we took the RV up to Sentinel point dome at Yosemite park. Hiked for 3hrs through the glorious park, visiting Glacial point and taking in the views of the two waterfalls and the valley floor. My husband acted as my personal sherpa and carried everything. There is absolutely no way I could have made the trip otherwise.


At this point I’d not eaten in 24hrs due to Crohn’s flare , which makes the 3hr hike even more unbelievable. I just drank a huge amount . I find for me, a fast helps my body to heal.


A 4.5hr drive followed the next day through old gold mining towns , passing through Angel a sweet old style town.  Another Walmart stock up for essentials before arriving at Lake Tahoe .


Sugar Pine camp site Lake Tahoe was unlike anywhere I’d ever stayed before. Basically just in a National park , so exciting !  Greeted by a sign warning of Bear sightings and food theft the day before . In fact 14 bear sightings that week.

Lovely to stay somewhere so away from it all , just us and a bear proof food box next to our pitch. I would love to tell you that night I saw a bear , I stayed up for ages with a mug of tea in the dark listening to shouts of bear! and car horns warning of a bear visit . but sadly they avoided our van. Our neighbours, a group of school children on a field trip with their teachers had an entire family of bears consume 100’s of cereal bars left in an unlocked bear box the night before, while they were on a night hike.


The joy of staying somewhere like this is eating is easy , Fish taco’s with black beans by the log fire, whats not to love. A fridge and cooker in the van , BBQ in the back and fire pits or barbecues at every camp site . A treat after eating very simply in restaurants for the first 10 days .

Lake Tahoe was truly stunning , crystal clear and ice cold . It was good to explore the beach areas and historic houses. Watching families enjoying the sunshine and chipmunks amongst the trees.


An early start the following day provided our first bear spot , the large bear was crossing the road, in the distance but a thrilling experience.

After 5 long hot hours in the RV driving through Reno Nevada to Lassen Volcanic park 

We arrived in a thunderstorm to Shingletown KOA Just an overnight stop . We definitely hadn’t quite appreciated the amount of time that would be spent on the road. It was taking its toll on me.

A snow fall that night,  rather spoilt our plans to visit the geothermal area at Lassen national park. Instead a vertical hike through the forest.


The journey to come was to challenge us both, 6 hrs in all . 3 of which, thanks to the sat nav on unmade roads and tracks in a huge RV over a mountainous area with no way of turning round. I did have visions of staying the night half way up a mountain! Fortunately this didn’t happen .

This was just after spotting our second bear. This time up close at the side of the road a young bear cub was happily relaxing in the grass. Sadly not keen on being photographed he quickly ran away. Something I will always remember and a saving grace at such a stressful part of our adventure.

A detour then followed to what can only be described as a truck stop , where a new plan was made to cut out a couple of campsites and visits . Before bedding down for the night after a much needed gin and tonic.

The Redwoods and Avenue of giants were our next must do’s so we headed straight there. The gigantic wonders of nature certainly wowed us.


Another 5 hrs and we arrived in Fort Bragg . Here we were able to book a night at a local camp site . The entire journey had been up to now booked in advance of our trip so we had to cancel a few places and re arrange the next few days.

Glass beach was worth a visit , originally a Victorian tip of mainly glass bottles , now a beach of beautiful sea glass . A big whale spotting area and due to the changing climate and ocean temperatures there were still Whales to be spotted surfacing , tail flapping and spurting water from their blow holes.

This part of our trip has been very chilly, jeans and jumper was essential in June . While in Southern California  I had not suffered with aches and pains since moving up north pains and stiffness returned.

After Fort Bragg we travelled to Manchester via Mendocino very reminiscent of a New England coastal town.


Again here it was 14 degrees with a sea fret definitely helping to keep the temperature down. Such a pretty place and a restaurant serving gluten free Fish and chips. A first on this holiday.


Rock cod and chips at Flow, well worth checking out if you visit. Followed by gluten free muffin and coffee and the local coffee shop.

I’d been unwell over the few days previous , I think due to the stress and anxiety of the journey over the last few days so it was extra lovely to be eating again.


Our next campsite was Manchester , during my trip I had been keeping a daily journal but due to exhaustion and fatigue and now tears I started to lose memory of what was happening . Just surviving was all I could manage.

We finally dropped the RV back to San Francisco , I can honestly say I was not sorry to see the back of it. Such a shame as I really love camping and camper vans . I think due the the length of the trip it was just all too much. Ideally the trip would have been better split into two holidays . San Diego – Monterey  and San Francisco round trip via Yosemite etc and back to San Fran.

Our final 5 days were to be spent in San Francisco, I think the sight of a hotel bed a good nights sleep and hot bath just gave me enough of a lift to give me a second wind. I had done a great deal of research before going away about restaurants and gluten free options in San Francisco bay area. I had never been more relieved that all was booked in advanced . My initial thoughts on the area we were staying was that it was very touristy. The Argonaut is very close to the piers and the busy area for tourists .


We ate out at The Chart house we had eaten at their sister restaurant in Monterey earlier on in our trip.

We of course did the sea lion watching at Pier 39


Friday evening we had dinner at Fog harbour fish restaurant, even though I had researched before hand, they really did struggled to fed me. Everything it seemed had been marinated or cooked in garlic. Salmon and green beans or broccoli was my go to dish or often the only choice. No starter or dessert again no surprise .

For breakfasts I can thoroughly recommend The Beach street grill,  , this modest family cafe was what I had been searching for all trip. gluten free 1/2 stack and maple syrup with extra bacon was exactly what I needed. Lunches looked great too, plenty of omelettes etc.


Travelling by Cable car, trolley bus and street car, Uber and on foot we covered many on the must do sights of San Francisco in a very short time .


The sun shone and we had lovely blue skies.


Missing out on desserts and treats during our trip it was so exciting to finally visit Mariposa bakery in the Ferry building. Such a choice of gluten free sweet and savoury bakes. Lots of other Artisan stalls too worth checking out.


Waterfront restaurant an upmarket restaurant with lovely views was a perfect end to the day. grilled prawns in prosciutto followed by whole crab and broccoli . simple but delicious.

We hired a car the following day to explore further afield . Golden gate bridge and the National park Point Reyes a couple of hours away. We were pleased to find Elk, Elephant seals noisily barking on the beach and a coyote crossing our path.


What better place for a picnic using the goodies from Mariposa bakery than the sea side . Artisan cheeses and cheese crackers followed by the most sensational cherry pie.


Home as the sun set over the golden gate bridge then another visit to Chart house for my husbands birthday meal .

A day at the races followed , my husband and I are both fans of Formula one and motor racing in general so we took the opportunity to visit NASCAR at Sonoma a 2hr drive away. It was well worth the trip . We sensibly had booked seats in the shade.


Dinner once again was at The Waterfront in San Fransisco another lovely meal.

Our final day in San Fran was a windy cool day . One final visit to the very special Beach street cafe was a must.


What better way to finish our stay , a final ride on the cable car this time hanging on the outside . Something I’d always imagined doing if I ever had a chance to visit this iconic place.

Our California road trip adventure was finally at an end. I had made it and really enjoyed seeing most especially the stunning scenery and natural world that California had to offer. I’d most definitely been pushed to my limits physically, but I’m so glad that I achieved this big adventure.





My California adventure

In June 2018 after much preparation I travelled to California with my husband , this was going to be a holiday of a lifetime . A drive from San Diego to San Francisco along the coast followed by an RV adventure inland to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and up to Lassen volcanic national park .

After a tough time health wise I was more than a little concerned about taking on an adventure of this size . Could I do it ?

I also wondered if i’d ever get the opportunity to take on a big holiday abroad like this again . I was determined to do my very best to have a holiday to remember. With health issues due to Autoimmune disease my energy levels were not what they had been in the past, and physically at times arthritis had begun to make walking long distances a struggle. So we had prepared for this trip like a military operation particularly regarding eating out, as this is difficult for me even in the UK.

Our adventure started in San Diego experiences the noisy buzzy evening scene in the gas light district was quite a way to start . We ate at Lionfish  at The Pendry , just like the streets around, it was dark and noisy.

Almost all restaurants had been researched and pre planned back in the UK. A packed pink folder came with us on the entire trip .

A big highlight in San Diego were the breakfasts at The Mission    

Possibly the best gluten free breakfasts of the entire adventure . Huge as you would expect in America and delicious!

Visiting The Coronado Hotel was for me one of the best visits in this city   , this iconic hotel was made famous by the movie Some like it hot .

A happy accident was that as we arrived in San Diego the Jacaranda trees were in full bloom , beautiful lavender purple flowers decorated the streets . The trees looked absolutely stunning, and such an unusual colour .

Nearby La Jolla beach, is also a must do , memories of pelicans flying over head , pretty houses with front gardens packed to overflowing with summer flowers . Well worth a visit.

Restaurant recommendation for a special meal –Island Prime for incredible fresh lobster and steak.

Also we enjoyed treats at the dedicated gluten free shop the Starry lane bakery it was well worth a trip while were we in San Diego, a diversion following an armed raid nearby didn’t put us off!

Laguna Beach our next quick stop greeted us with heavy cloud and an empty beach . Lunch at Nicks was simple but delicious. Due to my additional food intolerances eating out is super difficult . I find that carrying a card similar to a business card really helps . Staff in almost every restaurant , cafe and hotel thanked me and said how helpful it was.

Our next destination was Santa Monica with its brash brightly coloured pier and holiday makers making the most of the glorious weather. Here we stayed at The Viceroy where we were upgraded to a room looking out to the ocean. This was our base to explore Los Angeles . 

No first visit to La La Land would be complete without a Hollywood tour and Griffin Observatory visit.

True Food Kitchen lived up to my expectation in the evening , a restaurant I had found online . Gluten free fish taco’s , strawberry and rhubarb almond crumble whats not to love ! So good we repeated the experience the next evening .

LA was all we had expected , fabulous photo opportunities and memories to treasure.

On along the coast in our hire car we came to Malibu I’m not sure what I expected , but it wasn’t what we found . The most pretty, quiet, smart pier which wouldn’t of looked out of place on our very own Norfolk/ Suffolk coast in England  . Although we had just stocked up with a large breakfast at Marmalade cafe we were enticed into Malibu farm a smart restaurant on the pier to sip on mint lemonades . Our helpful server gave us a great dolphin spotting tips .

We drove on to the wild beach which was suggested to us and watched dolphin, seals and pelicans in the distance.

One of the top stops on our adventure Santa Barbara was next , staying this time at an Air BnB, I immediately felt part of the community . Laundry sorted and shopping done at the local Whole Foods I could have stayed for a week! Actually by this part of the trip I was beginning to flag and definitely needed a rest day or two. I really enjoyed cooking and being able to eat things that we’d missed on our holiday so far.

In the pretty town we visited Lilac patisserie serving gluten free treats . I can recommend.

Santa Barbara is a place we would love to return too.

Wining best beach of the trip El Capitan on along from Santa Barbara it was everything I love in a beach . Backed by eucalyptus trees and edged with wild flowers and grasses this beach is a driftwood collectors dream . With sea lions bobbing up and family groups making camps under sun shades on golden sand , I wish we could of stayed longer . Not being able to take driftwood with us I spent the time gathering and building driftwood sculptures on the sand , I’m not one for sitting still.

After seven days in the sunshine I noticed a huge improvement in my body. Far less aches and pains and better mobility. Warmth and sunshine is such a great healer.

Leaving the beautiful beach we moved on to Fess Parker vineyard and winery , a stop for my husband . I watched as he tasted a selection of the wines wishing that I could have joined in.

Being Intolerant to yeast is no fun! A quick picnic under the tree in the grounds and then back on the road.

Next stop Morro Bay where it was blowing a gale , making sea otter spotting a freezing job . There were so many all bunched together laying on their backs , lots with babies holding tightly to their mothers in the windy conditions.

On to Paso Robles starving we were glad that steak was on the menu and a gluten free pudding too, result! We stayed at The Inn in the town . I’m sure just reading this you’re exhausted ! Add in Chronic fatigue and you can probably imagine that by this point I was completely finished . Which was such a shame as what was to come up was to be so amazing.

What followed was a monster journey , this was the day we drove the Big Sur You may remember it was in the news a while back due to big mud /rock slides . Most of the roads are now accessible but we did have to make one rather long detour through and over Los Pedro national park .

Another huge high light of our trip happened here . As we drove up the winding narrow roads we were suddenly surrounded completely by millions of Monarch butterflies on their migration , there were thousands on the ground and in the air . An incredible and emotional moment to have witnessed .

Through Carmel in thick fog and on to Monterey exhausted and thirsty I pretty much crawled into Portola Hotel, a large nautical themed hotel and was very glad we had done the research in advance and knew where we were eating . Along at Cannery Row we ate at Fish hopper , a whole Dungeness crab was just what I needed. followed by Creme brûlée , my go to pudding on this trip.

It was Starbucks breakfasts while we were in Monterey , hot coconut milk coffee was much needed as the temperature difference from the trip so far was very noticeable. About 16 degrees in June .

For nature lovers Monterey offers so much sea life,  on one walk we spotted 20 sea otters, 10 seals and at least 10 sea lions on the quay .

When we find a restaurant that works for me , we often go back again Fish hopper was a great choice. Crab salad and otter watching , whats not to like .

Dinner was booked for Chart house cannery row , service was very poor and food was nothing special.

Choices of main courses for me was very small almost everywhere on our trip . Onions , garlic , paprika , yeast make an appearance in so much let alone gluten . Most days my choice was some type of fish or seafood , broccoli and very occasionally a baked potato . Desserts were rare, no surprise there.

Now you might be thinking this trip is about to come to an end , I think at the time my body was definitely ready to take a break . But no ! The adventure had only just begun………….







Gluten free at Abama Hotel Tenerife

With a  multitude of food intolerances holidaying at a Hotel for me is a very daunting thought. Something I’d almost rather not consider.  But after a tough year with health issues and a house move we really felt we needed a break away. A break where we both had complete relaxation , no cooking or worrying about what to eat.

My husband had heard good things about the Abama in Tenerife . A Ritz Carlton Hotel in Guia de Isora . After a little persuassion we booked a week in the winter sun.


Abama Hotel

In advance we emailed the food and beverage manager at the hotel . Giving a hotel advanced notice I think is a good idea, whether you are gluten free due to having coeliac disease or a dairy intolerance or like me a long list of foods I have to avoid. The restaurants then have time to make sure they can be fully prepared.

I felt far calmer about the holiday once the email was sent and a reply had been received. My husband researched all the restaurants at Abama and pre booked every night before we flew. Abama has two Michelin star Restaurants , neither was something we felt we needed to try , although I’m sure they are amazing . With so much other choice we knew we would eat well . We chose to go half board to get the best deal.


Restaurants –

La Miramar – locally sourced Seafood restaurant / Breakfast venue for Villa guests

Verona  – Italian

20/20 Steak house

TXOKO – Traditional Spanish

Beach club restaurant

Los Chozos – Bar and restaurant ( not visited )

La Casa club ( not visited )

Sports bar ( not visited )

Lobby bar

M.B – Michelin star restaurant ( not visited )

Abama Kabuki – Japanese fusion Michelin star restaurant (not visited )


We arrived on Thursday afternoon and after checking in we were met by the Executive chef and we were given a glass of Cava . He instantly made me feel at ease about my week at Abama . Opening up his laptop he took more notes as I chatted him through my list including onions, garlic, paprika, chilli’s, yeast including wine & vinegar and Gluten . He was so reassuring making notes in both english and Spanish to send to all the restaurants. A fantastic start!


Our villa

Our first meal was lunch at the beautiful beach side restaurant local fish grilled with the softest mash , just perfect alfresco dinning in a relaxed atmosphere. In the evening we ate at the Seafood restaurant overlooking the sea. With the weather in Tenerife warm enough to sit outside with heaters just like a UK good summer. We enjoyed a salt crusted Sea bass with traditional Tenerife style potatoes and vegetables.


stunning view from our villa

Day 2 was our first chance to experience breakfast on the veranda of La Mirabar Alfresco this restaurant is for Villa guests only . A big plus for me, close to our villa and views straight out to the sea and the island of La Gomera. At 9am in the morning it was warm enough to sit outside with just a cardigan. From the very first minute I felt like a very special guest . Post it notes were on all our bookings and every day I was told reasuringly that they were informed about my intolerances. There was a huge buffet but also an a la cart menu Which I chose from every day. Sometimes asking for things off menu which the chef was happy to provide . Delicious omelettes , poached eggs, salmon bacon, avocado etc.


Stunning views at breakfast

They struggled to understand that I couldn’t eat the gluten free bread and rolls and occasionally offered it to me. The good thing was I was able to have a look at what was on offer and the gluten free rolls etc looked really nice. I also noticed that lactose free milk was available and soya milk was available at the buffet. Plenty of fresh fruit as you would expect and hams and cheeses were on offer. I had these brought directly from the kitchen rather than the buffet to avoid the cross contamination .


Alfresco breakfast in January

Our evening was spent at the steak restaurant 20/20 This restaurant is up at the hotel a steep walk or a 5 min buggy ride away. The waiting staff here were a little slow but on the whole it was a fine meal of Spanish cheese and Iberian ham , Steak and gluten free fries and a creme brûlée . It reminded me of eating at Côte.


20/20 Steak house

Our third Evening was spent at the Amazing Spanish restaurant our favourite . The waiting and front of house team were exceptional The surrounding were lovely an indoor restaurant up at the hotel again but very Spanish in feel and just that extra bit special. The food was a real treat the best aged Iberian ham I have ever tasted along with some good quality Manchego cheese .


Aged Iberian ham and Manchego cheese

My main course was some beautifully cooked fish with crispy skin , steamed veg and fries made specially for me in separate oil . Gluten free desserts are always more difficult to find on a menu it seems. But here I was offered the most incredible Spanish decadent rice pudding I had ever tasted with a brûlée style topping . At the end of the meal unexpectedly the wonderful Chef came out to be introduced and shook our hands . I’m sure the other customers thought we were very special , they made such a fuss of us.


Decadent sweet rice pudding

Days were spent by the adult only pool very close to our villa looking out to sea and beyond to La Gomera , With complimentary water and fruit there was no need to move at all, or pay out for lunch  .


January winter sun

Just plenty of time for absorbing some much needed vitamin D and reading some gentle books . Perfect for improving your mental health and completely switching off from all the pressures of life. The pool staff were attentive and friendly the pool area was very clean and quiet . The water was 24 degrees perfect for a little light exercise . There was a bar on site for tapas style lunches and a cheeky drink.


The Adult only pool

Day 4 we had booked to eat at 20/20 again but as we were not over enamoured with the quality of the food we changed to the Spanish restaurant where we knew we would eat like Kings. It might sound strange but I had virtually the same meal as i’d had the night before. Being a Spanish restaurant the majority of main courses contained onions and garlic etc  But I was quite happy having more beautiful fish and this time special mash made for me by the chef in advance as he had asked on our last visit if there was anything he could make for me specially . The rice pudding the night before had been so amazing an even though there was other choices apart from fruit . I couldn’t resist ordering it a second time. So sweet and creamy it somehow felt very homely and comforting . Although I’ve never eaten quite such an amazing rice pudding in the UK.


A very memorable evening meal was the special Paella the chef created at La Miramar


Chef created a special paella just for me

Our final evening was spent at the Italian restaurant at the hotel, This restaurant did have gluten free pastas available , but I chose some lovely fish and fresh veggies followed by a delicious raspberry panna cotta .


If you are thinking of spending a week on Tenerife, I can recommend a drive up the volcano Mount Teide , the scenery is absolutely stunning and surprised me enormously.


view from the volcano

The small coastal villages are beautiful as are the historic inland villages like Garachico with quiet squares for people watching and welcome shade in the heat of the day.



The hotel we stayed at was really lovely and I can definitely recommend . I would particularly recommend a villa rather than a hotel room . It has the edge on the hotel and feels just that little more special.  Our room was clean , nicely decorated and had the most stunning views from our balcony.


Family pool and our villa

Well worth a stay if you are celebrating a special birthday or anniversary . Just be aware the hotel is on a hill , with relatively steep slopes and numerous steps around the resort. There is though a team of drivers to taxi you around in golf buggies ( allow 15mins plus ) , a resort train to take you to the beach and hotel.


resort train

and a funicular railway down to the golden sand beach .


View of the beach

We had a fabulous time, and would definitely return, when we’ve saved up !

its certainly not a cheap holiday but for a special occasion you can’t go wrong.

Happy Holidays !









Gluten free at the Medicine garden Cobham

On one of the hottest days of the year I decided to go and investigate a walled garden with cafe’s and shops in Cobham. I only recently found out about this beautiful walled garden on  Instagram. After seeing lovely pics I was keen to go and explore.


Not far from the centre of Cobham Surrey the Walled garden can be found on Downside road KT11 3LU . My sat nav didn’t quite get the position right , undeterred I phoned up and a helpful lady explained that it was just a little further up the road. Medicine garden shares an entrance with a fencing company. Both sets of signs are clear to see from the road. There is plenty of free parking and the Gardens themselves are free to enter. A donation is requested for the upkeep of the gardens but this is not compulsory .


As I visited towards the end of August many of the beautiful flowers were going over, but this did not take away from my overall experience. Bees and butterflies were still busy amongst the remaining bright colours and seed heads stood to attention in the heat on the midday sun.


It was quite a lot to take in at first, I hadn’t gone with any preconceived ideas. The Medicine garden is enclosed in a gorgeous old wall and with the bright blue sky and honey coloured stone and palm tree you could have been somewhere far more exotic than Cobham. Not that Cobham isn’t a lovely destination !


Firstly I took a tour around the entire area taking in the Airstream converted to a cafe, a canopied south facing raised seating area with miss match of bright coloured chairs a huge pink leather settee and large ornate mirror.




A more shady area to the left with white roses growing up the wall and long tables perfect for a large group.



A small play area fort for 4yrs and up surrounded by sand , full of little ones making the most of the school holidays. Next to a small veggie patch.


Bike stands available for cyclists  making it a perfect half way spot for an espresso.


This bike had seen better days but made a perfect container for flowers.

Glistening in the sunshine the vintage Airstream has pride of place serving teas and coffee’s etc from late spring to early autumn.


On through to the most quirky garden pod cafe, set in the courtyard and formerly the potting shed open daily throughout the year. I was here to seek out any gluten free offerings, and I wasn’t to be disappointed. The staff were very friendly and helpful and explained that all the gluten free cakes and biscuits came from a local bakery Le Papillon Patisserie ( this is not a dedicated gluten free bakery ) but the GF labeled cakes on site in the cafe were stored in separate glass covered containers. There were three choices of gluten free and a vegan choice.




I chose a gluten free macaroon and a cup of english breakfast tea, I tend to take my own milk as I prefer unsweetend almond. I imagine that the cafe would offer a dairy free alternative to milk. I think my bill was about £4 about average for anywhere in Surrey.


I carried my tray out onto the south facing terrace under the shade of the huge white canopy . It was maybe a little to hot to be sitting in the sun but it looked so welcoming that I embraced the heat! For those who prefer the shade there was a cool shady courtyard on the other side of the cafe offering relief from the hot sun and many people were sensibly enjoying their lunches in the cool.


Even though the car park was very busy there was plenty of places to sit I chose a tiny table and chair looking out onto the grass slowly getting scorched in the sun. My gluten free macaroon was a real treat , I have to admit I am always nervous of eating baked goods out as I worry about cross contamination. I have been absolutely fine after eating it and I’m sure they are careful to avoid causing any ill effects. I really liked my mug, and the tea and would definitely take friends along next time.


Soon the heat became too much so I retreated into the shade of the courtyard. A selection of tiny shops. The Art shed, The Beehive, Blid and Hattan gatherings, The White Orchid flower shop and The Pineapple store entice you in. Plenty of plants for sale too and garden pots etc .


Most of the little shops were in the shade and on the more northerly side of the courtyard allowing a rest bite from the intense heat of the day. I enjoyed a browse and could think of quite a few friends who would enjoy these indie shops too.


The courtyard is also home to The Hothouse cafe, on my visit it certainly was a hot house! but on a regular English day I’m sure it would be lovely to sit inside. Gluten free bread was on offer but as always if you are Coeliac check first about their cross contamination policy ( separate toaster etc )


The Medicine garden does not allow you to bring picnics along, but encourages you to buy something tasty from the cafe’s and eat it in or alfresco on one of the sun decks and for a picnic style you can borrow a blanket or sit on one of the extra large deckchairs.

Babies food is an exception and home prepared can be eaten in the gardens. Many families with young children where gathered in groups under the shade of the trees. Ice creams and lollies were available and I noticed a sign saying most flavours were gluten free. To upkeep the beautiful gardens and walls they  encourage you to purchase something from the cafe’s . A small price to pay to spend as long as you like in this stunning environment and to maintain it for the future.


I made time to walk around the circle of trees reading carefully the inspirational texts written at each point . Even with the sun beating down it was a few moments of calm.


My next visit won’t be too far away I’m sure. But I particularly look forward to late spring / early summer 2017 when I’m sure the gardens will be at their best.


I can really recommend this hidden gem, why not go and check it out for yourself .


You can follow Medicine garden on Instagram @medicinegardencobham 

Twitter @medicinegarden 









Gluten free treats from Manna Dew

On Saturday I found myself in Battersea park for the Formula E racing . The extra bonus to a day out watching racing cars was that I remembered the Mann Dew was close by.

Manna Dew is a 100% gluten free Patisserie and Bakery Cafe serving breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas situated on a classic London cobblestone street in Battersea. The Patisserie does not use refined sugar instead opting for sugars such as agave and coconut sugar. ( Macaron the only exception )


I walked from the park following the directions on Google maps which took about 12 mins. Manna Dew was a smaller shop than I expected but once inside I was impressed with the quality of the interior, and the cleanliness.   A real little gem. The array of patisserie delights was mind blowing along with the aroma of freshly baked bakery goods and the smell of fresh coffee. The choice was a little overwhelming for me. I rarely find a shop where I can safely induldge in such amazing gluten free treats .


The bakery goods looked great, the French baguettes, yes baguettes! looked Amazing , seeded buns and focaccia looked and smelt so tempting hard to believe they didn’t contain gluten.


Due to having Crohn’s disease as well as being intolerant to gluten means gluten free grains are only for treat days. I find that too many gluten free grains affect me if eaten regularly. But for a Coeliac or someone who is gluten intolerant this place is a dream come true you !

I could see that the staff were very busy, a young family with three children were enjoying a pre booked afternoon tea, another group of people were sitting outside in the sunshine while a delivery for Deliveroo was being sorted and sent on its way.


As I was short for time and needed to get back for the Formula E big race I made an order to take away. I chose a chocolate brownie, a mini carrot cake and a toasted Italian focaccia for my husband. I am intolerant to yeast otherwise I would have chosen the chicken focaccia which looked amazing.


I had a short chat with Muhammed who kindly gave me a raspberry passion fruit tart to try as he said it was one of their signature patisserie tarts and I he wanted me to try it. A very generous gift.


I dashed back to the Park to enjoy my picnic. My husband was very impressed with the toasted focaccia saying he couldn’t tell that it was gluten free. In fact he thought it was nicer than most regular gluten focaccia sandwiches. We shared the decadent chocolate brownie, an intensely chocolatey slice, gooey and very rich . A big hit and something I would order again. I enjoyed the carrot cake all to myself, again really delicious and light.


The special patisserie raspberry and passionfruit tart was saved until we were home. Amazingly it survived intact.


The raspberry passionfruit tart was indeed a triumph, a biscuity pastry with a tangy filling and fresh fruit. So glad I was able to try this. I enjoyed it and would order again. My husband said he would of preferred a more simple pastry case.

I would love to see added to the range some grain free treats too I think they would be very popular, I for one would be back in a flash to try them .

Do pay Manna Dew a visit if you live in London or are visiting London in the near future. Locals can also have delicious gluten free treats delivered to their door with Deliveroo and JINN . Places like this will not survive unless we show our support to indie shops like this delightful one.

Why not book a trip soon , there is currently a special offer on afternoon tea, check the website for details.

You can follow Manna Dew on Twitter @mannadew


Tuesday to Friday 10am – 6pm

Sat & Sun 10.30am – 6pm

169 Battersea high street SW11 3JS







My review of Honeybuns Squillionaire and Fruity nut bar

Honeybuns  New Squillionaire is a gluten free polenta and date shortbread , topped with date and chocolate –  less sweet than your average millionaire square but still tastes like a treat. Containing no refined sugar its obviously still sweet but instead of refined sugar it contains date syrup and date paste . I love that it clearly says I’m a cake not a health bar .


Its good to see Honeybuns listening to many of us requesting refined sugar free treats.

Honeybuns are hoping to make the Squillionaire bar Dairy free in the future . But please be aware that at present it may contain traces of dairy.


My next challenge to Honeybuns is for 100% dairy free treats using coconut oil and I would love to see a Grain free , refined sugar free treat too?


I picked mine up from my local Waitrose cafe , located near the till. Priced at £1.85


I really enjoyed this new cake bar, I actually prefer the lower sugar taste and would select it again .

Also available online at at £1.70 per slice.

The new Fruity nut bar is a dairy free and gluten free bar packed with cranberries, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. This is still most definitely a treat and does contain a small amount of sugar in the sweetened cranberries  , the bar also contains dates. Each bite is full of delicious dried fruit and nuts.  I enjoyed it but not sure I would choose it again.

cost £1.70

Honeybuns say ” It tastes like a decadent cake, not a health bar ! ”


online at it costs £1.70 per bar


Follow Honeybuns on Twitter @honeybunsbakery 

My visit to the stunning Wiveton Hall, normal for Norfolk!

I love the North Norfolk coast and I’m a regular visit to Wiveton Hall ,café and fruit farm . Usually I go along for tea and gluten free cake and buy seasonal fruit and vegetables . I find it a great place to take friends and family.


The location is just perfect with views stretching down towards the marshes and sea. After watching the BBC 2 series Normal for Norfolk the documentary about Wiveton Hall and the undeniably slightly eccentric character that is Norfolk gentleman farmer Desmond MacCarthy . His mother the lovely Chloe at 100 is still very much part of the farm and cafe and who I spotted enjoying a gluten free brownie , which I have to say looked delicious.


On Sunday inspired by the tv series I made the drive along the coast road to Wiveton hall fruit farm with my husband. The sun was shining brightly and although the car thermometer was only reading 12c it felt much warmer. The scenery along the coast road was gorgeous. winding through pretty villages, passing a windmill , fields of rapeseed and hedgerows of cow parsley.


I had pre booked a lunch for two at 1. 30pm We arrived and parked up, as always it was packed . Do book in advance online if you want to eat at Wiveton Hall. Its always been very busy but I’m sure due to Normal for Norfolk’s popularity this summer will be its best!

We were shown to a large clean table with views down to the sea in the distance. Bright coloured chairs and fun patterned table cloths make this light bright airy cafe the perfect place for a sunny Sunday lunch. I was delighted that Desmond himself was in the cafe chatting to families. He kindly agreed to a photo for my blog post and was interested to hear where we had come from.


Chloe, Desmonds mother has her own designated table. Where she was sitting waiting for her Sunday lunch and possibly waiting for Desmond to finish chatting with one and all and come and sit down!

The big table next to us was a family celebrating the grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. Wiveton cafe is very family friendly and if you prefer there is a seating area outside for families and dogs. The chairs and tables outside are painted in zingy bright colours and have an outstanding view of the Norfolk countryside and distant views of the sea.


Before I booked online I contacted the cafe by email to explain my dietary requirements. Charlotte emailed me back straight away assuring we I would be well looked after and also giving me a menu idea for my visit that would fit in with my many intolerances. This was very reassuring .

At the cafe you take your order to the till where you can pay in advance or at the end. The  kitchen is open and right next door and if you had any questions, which I did about choice of gluten free puddings they were quickly answered.


I chose Hot smoked salmon and Wiveton asparagus salad with a horseradish, tomato and lime creme fraise dressing, this was the menu idea from Charlotte.  Followed by homemade Wiveton strawberry sorbet. My husband went for the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with roasties and asparagus. His dessert choice was cappuccino panna cotta  with nut praline and raisins soaked in rum. Tea for one and a ginger beer.


The drinks and food arrived promptly and were well presented. My salmon and asparagus salad was a good size and delicious the flavours delicate and a flavour combination I hadn’t tried before. Baby salad leaves, fresh asparagus picked from Wiveton farm and a good size piece of salmon with tomatoes. I would definitely chose it again.


I eat out so rarely that when I do, and feel confident in the chefs , I always get a little emotional. The sheer joy of not having to cook and to be able to eat out like everyone else. That might seem quite crazy and difficult to understand but when you are intolerant to gluten , yeast thats vinegar, wine etc. Onions, garlic and paprika. Eating out becomes so difficult especially with the worry of cross contamination from gluten. These days any of these foods can cause me to be extremely ill for days and weeks to come.


My husband enjoyed his large roast dinner with perfectly cooked pink slices of beef with crispy Yorkshire with plenty of hot meaty gravy.

Our desserts were both gluten free so I was able to sample to cappuccino panna cotta. My husband wasn’t convinced on the flavour combination with the nut brittle and the rum soaked raisins but I thought it was a clever idea that I’m sure worked well. My Wiveton strawberry homemade sorbet was a real treat. Bursting with early english strawberry flavour and more than a little sugar! ( well it was a treat pud ! )


I thought the prices were ok my salad was £13.50 and the roast was £16.50 the desserts were £6 each. I found the waiting staff were friendly and very helpful.


After my delicious meal I suggested we took a walk around the gardens this costs £2.50 each from the shop. Which by the way is amazing and I got carried away buying a Wiveton mug, postcards and Wiveton jam. Some lovely things, much of which is locally made.


The gardens was something after seeing the tv show I really wanted to explore.


Unfortunately the hall itself isn’t open to the public this is very much Desmond and his families home. But the walled garden , the outside of the hall and wild woodland gardens  are truly worth an afternoon stroll. I properly fell in love with the place and could of quite easily spent hours there.



If you are up in Norfolk it is well worth a visit. Just don’t forget to book in advance if you want to eat at the cafe. You can click through here to find availability. There are also holiday cottages to stay in.


Wiveton cafe is open for lunch and afternoon tea. Friday evenings for Beef and Reef. Saturdays are Tapas night, also pizza evenings . Special events are on the website too.

Before you leave its well worth checking out the plants, fruit and vegetables available to buy.

Wiveton Hall website

follow on Twitter @wivetonhall 

check out @Iizzirainey handmade lovely things available in the Wiveton shop

Missed the series Normal for Norfolk? click here to view 


These views and this stunning scenery is really Normal for Norfolk! come and see for yourself










Côte Brasserie gluten free update

Today I treated myself to lunch out with a friend. Now Côte Brasserie has come to my local town I have a safe choice to eat out gluten free. Click here to see Côte Brasserie locations 

Taking inspiration from the brasseries of Paris, Côte offers authentic french classics with many options available which are free from gluten.

I chose Steak frites from the gluten free menu. The gluten free menu is large and has plenty to choose from. Click here to see the full GF menu 


Due to my extra food intolerances steak is a good option for me.

The meals arrived promptly and my steak looked really delicious, I was impressed, great flavour and perfectly cooked. The frites as always were very good.

New breakfast gluten free menu


Côte Brasserie have always been good for gluten free but now they have the added bonus of being accredited by Coeliac UK joining other chains including  Carluccio’s , La Tasca , Frankie and Benny’s , find complete list here Coeliac UK accredited eateries 


A recent visit to Côte Brasserie in London

Updated gluten free menu click here

follow Côte on Instagram Cote_brasserie

Gluten free at Flat Iron

Yesterday Mr S and I decided to have a day in London. Even though the weather was freezing and damp we wrapped up and took the train to Victoria. Selfridges was our first stop for a few gluten free treats. I choose apricot abricotines and viennese shortbread from Peace of cake London and a bakewell slice.

We then had a walk around Marylebone and found a gorgeous indie cheese shop La Fromargerie and bought some extremely stinky delicious cheese.


We took a taxi along to Soho and quickly found Flat Iron ,a restaurant that I had heard did great steak and gluten free chips. The restaurant is on Beak street really close to Carnaby street. Flat Iron was packed with customers and the friendly door guy took our phone number so that they could text us when a table was available with a web link counting down until a table was free. He had warned us that it would be approximately a 50min wait. I normally wouldn’t wait such a long time for a meal, but as it was already 2ish and we had come over specially  we took a walk around Carnaby street in the rain.


After about 40mins a text came through to say our table was ready. Hungry and more than a little chilly we were shown up one flight of stairs to a narrow but warm room with exposed brick walls, knives on the walls and simple brown paper style menus. Here you sit on communal tables.


The menu makes life very easy, a great place for those who struggle to decide on what to eat! Just one choice of main and one special. The main is a steak, not a fillet or sirloin but a feather blade steak which comes from the shoulder. This is served with a small green salad.



The chips I’m pleased to say are gluten free and are fried in dripping. Possible my favourite chips ever! There was a choice of 5 sides and 4 sauces. Mr S choose Fred’s sauce.


Our waiter came over promptly and explained the entire menu and told us all about the cut of the steak, he was very helpful and reassuring about what on the menu was gluten free and pointing out the very few things that weren’t safe for me.

The special yesterday was a wagyu burger for £15


Our meals arrived quickly , the steaks looked and tasted very good. Tender and flavoursome ,perfectly cooked. The chips were equally scrummy and I will definitely returning for more very soon.


In fact I cannot fault the meal, simple and delicious and at £12.50 for a main course good value for money.

The only dessert on offer is sadly not gluten free, I was surprised that a chocolate salt caramel mousse needed to contain gluten. Maybe something to look at for the future?


I watched Mr S enjoy his light and creamy mousse. This was priced at £2.50 . Thankfully I had earlier bought the treat sweet bakes to indulge in on the way home.

Flat Iron has three restaurants in London

Beak street, Denmark street and Henrietta street

The restaurant doesn’t take reservations


You can find out more here

Website – FlatIronSteak

Twitter – @flatironsteak

If you are in Soho why not go and try it for yourself , I would like to hear your thoughts.


Norwich’s very own gluten free cafe and shop

Today we drove over to Norwich to visit The gluten free cafe and shop on Timber hill. We parked at the John Lewis car park but there are numerous places to park near the shop and cafe. The setting is perfect on a pretty street, one of the oldest recorded city streets in Norwich. Home to quirky shops , boutiques and beauty salons. Since January home to this exciting new enterprise from the Norfolk gluten free company. 


I was blown away by the smartness and quality of the exterior and interior of the cafe and shop. Stepping into the busy cosy cafe I felt like a child in a sweet shop. To know that you can eat from the entire menu on the large black board was the most exciting thing ever. If  like me you have Coeliac disease or gluten intolerant  you will totally understand the wave of relief and calm you feel when you know you are safe to eat somewhere that is 100% gluten free with no worries of cross contamination. It offers a huge range of tasty savoury and sweet options for all the family including delicious looking soups and pies, quiches and ploughman’s. An enormous array of sweet treats from chocolate eclairs and muffins to beautiful cup cakes and flapjacks . You could have the biggest sugar high ! We all need a treat sometimes


The staff were busy with lots of happy customers. Today Families , young couples and older people were sat around at tables drinking coffee and eating lunch. It was lovely to see the place so busy. We found a little table near the window where we could watch the world go by. I decided on hot cheesy balls with butter for lunch and Mr S choose a chicken pie with ploughman lunch, with coffee.


After ordering at the counter I couldn’t resist a quick look upstairs at the gluten free shop where I was greeted by the lovely Louisa founder of the Norfolk gluten free company . I scanned the shelves full of everything you could possibly imagine, it really is like an Aladdin’s cave. I was beyond excited , far superior to a free from section in a supermarket. From an incredible selection of freshly baked bread goods from Wheat free bakery ( the best bread in my family’s opinion ) to pies and quiches and dry mixes , pasta’s, taco and wraps. Every gluten free flour, dough ball mix  I could go on.



After doing a quick grab of goodies and paying upstairs I was down just in time for my Latte and hot yummy cheesy dough balls. These can be served with a selection of dips but I went for butter with mine. they were so scummy.


With so many extra food intolerances I often find it difficult to order anything when I am out shopping. These were just what I needed. My husband was pleased with his flaky chicken pie packed with hearty pieces of chicken inside with a side salad, bread roll and cheese plus chutney, a feast.



My coffee was so good I ordered a second and couldn’t resist a sweet treat.


IMG_9904 Its not often I can go out and order a pudding . After much thought I decided on the caramel choux bun and Mr S had a fruit and chocolate flap jack.


I spotted some very pretty looking cup cakes made by the talented Imogen from Sugar buttons cakes so it would of been rude not to take one home for later . A toffee popcorn cupcake was popped into a little cake bag for me to enjoy later.


Imogen made my son and daughter in law’s wedding cupcakes in August 2014 so I know just how good they are. As well as cup cakes Imogen makes the most stunning large gluten free Wedding cakes too, do check out her website Sugar buttons creative.


Before I left I had one more quick look upstairs in the shop, It is a surprisingly good size space. So if you are in for a coffee don’t forget to take a look yourself. I choose some freshly baked bread to take home and some extra special chocolate hearts from Montezuma.


The prices in the cafe and shop I thought were very fair and we will definitely return next time we are in Norwich armed with extra bags and more room in the freezer to take home lots of gluten free bread for the family.



I do hope if you are in the Norwich area or visiting Norfolk this year you will make time to visit this fabulous cafe and shop. If we don’t support these brave enterprises they won’t survive . I would like to wish Louisa and her team all the very best for the future. I’m sure you have a real success on your hands. I could see just how much work must have gone into the last few months do get this venture off the ground in the centre of this beautiful city.



You can find the Cafe and shop at the top Timber hill number 21 on the left hand side as you look down the hill.


Website – Norfolk gluten free company

Twitter – @nklkglutenfree