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Simple food availability.

I suffer from migraines and neuropathy when eating aged, fermented or gluten foods; is it possible on RS trip throughFrance to have options for plain meat, Vegetables and potatoes or rice for lunches and dinners and eggs for breakfast?

Posted by
679 posts

On my trips with RS the tour guides inquire about food allergies and dietary requirements. He/she makes great efforts handling these needs for the pre arranged group meals. It tends to be an area where many establishments gladly accommodate.

Posted by
16938 posts

Hopefully they offer a chance to sign up for gluten-free meals during the whole tour. I thought that was a standard choice with tour groups.

Edit: This is the page on dietary needs in the Tour FAQs:

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-help/tours-faq

It says that other than vegetarian diets, they cannot take responsibility for special dietary needs, and tour members should be prepared to be flexible and on occasion take care of their own needs. And that you can discuss it with the guide so they are aware.

Personally, I find that statement pretty dismissive of a genuine problem. Every time I have been in an “all-inclusive” situation where meals are provided (remote wilderness lodges, guided hiking tours with adventure travel companies, even business class airline meals), there has been an option for “gluten-free”. Given how ubiquitous wheat is in many cuisines (as a sauce thickener, for example, or batter or crumb coating on fried foods), it can be difficult to avoid gluten unless special meals are prepared.

Posted by
3521 posts

When I took the France tours there was always an option to specify food options. Every hotel provided a gluten free choice every morning, you just have to ask and they may need reminding.

Not too sure on the other meals.

Posted by
7728 posts

I can't speak to the tours, but in general, I find restaurants and hotels in most European countries to take very good precautions regarding dietary needs. Most places clearly indicate vegetarian/vegan and gluten free options, as well as basic allergens.

But everyone seems to have their own list of do's and don'ts, what they can and can't eat, so yeah, a good part of the onus is on you. You might have a short list of phrases in French describing what you can and can't have, though "no gluten" would be universally understood ("sans gluten", better).

Posted by
7468 posts

Definitely call the RS office and talk to them about your needs. Also, I would recommend having a couple of index cards with words written in France of what you need to avoid.

Not to imply this will happen to you, but I also had frequent migraines. Yet, I’ve only had one during all of the times I’ve traveled in Europe. It makes me think that the difference in food sources, chemicals, processing, etc. are factors in it, too.

Posted by
16938 posts

Here is what it says in the Tour FAQ section:

Can I get special meals for my dietary restrictions?
If you require a vegetarian diet, please alert your guide at the start of your tour, so he or she can make >arrangements for your upcoming meals. Beyond this, we cannot take responsibility for tour members with >special dietary needs or allergies. Tour members with dietary restrictions usually manage fine with a little >flexibility and willingness to supplement meals as needed at their own expense. Please discuss all relevant >dietary/health issues with your guide at the start of your tour so he or she can assist you when possible.

That does not sound promising to me. Hotels and restaurants need advance notice if they are expected to provide special meals for certain tour members. The EU regulations on “gluten-free” are very strict—- for example, gluten-free bread must be baked in a special facility dedicated to gluten-free products, to avoid cross-contamination. For this reason, when we did the Tour du Mont Blanc with REI Adventures, our guide was unable to find gluten-free bread for my lunch at one small, remote hotel because there was no such facility nearby. And on a very recent Dolomites hiking tour with Mountain Hiking Holidays, the chef at one hotel came out every morning at breakfast to discuss the menu options for dinner with the two gluten-free members in our group, to make sure they were suitable. He would then go shopping (or send someone else) to buy the necessary ingredients. All this because it was arranged in advance by the tour guide.

Posted by
6106 posts

I feel like this is really dependent on the tour guide you end up with. I have done only one RS tour, and it was in Rome, fall of 2019. We loved the tour and the guide, though if I were vegetarian, I might have been disappointed. At least half the meals were not vegetarian. However, it could have been that the couple that was vegetarian did not inform the RS office. Also, maybe it depends on the country? Might it be difficult to provide gluten free meal options in Italy?

Posted by
14291 posts

"I feel like this is really dependent on the tour guide you end up with."

Yes, this ^ ^!

I'm vegan, not gluten free. On my last tour (Italy) I met with the guide after the initial meet up and told them I was vegan but if there were instances that the restaurant could not provide a vegan meal I would go with vegetarian. At the 1st meal they looked at me and said I'm making you vegetarian. I ate what I could and had snacks with me in case I didn't get full (like when the main was a huge wheel of fried goat cheese) Later I realized this guide was just a bit overwhelmed and my food preferences were adding to the burden.

TBH, I think the best you will be able to do is gluten-free, no dairy. It will have to be the same throughout the whole trip. If you do go no dairy it will also mean no ice cream, etc. Most of the time lunches will be on your own. I think there are some apps for GF which may help you find lunch in the towns where you'll visit during the day.

I have done several tours in France but they were pre-covid. All the France guides were able to organize vegan meals for me.

Breakfast will be a hotel buffet type thing. They will usually have some kind of hot eggs or sometimes hard boiled eggs. You can ask for GF bread but honestly, I'd go to the grocery store when you are in Paris or wherever your tour starts and get some supplies to supplement in case it's a smaller hotel.

I've not seen a lot of fermented foods in France except for perhaps Alsace with their choucroute garni. But maybe others will be able to think of fermented French foods to avoid.

Posted by
8664 posts

It is standard practice for the RS tour leader to ask about allergies and food issues at the initial meet-up, to confirm what the office should have noted when you signed up. I disagree that its entirely up to the tour leader, however, as the restaurant has to be able to accommodate special needs and since its contracted ahead of time, and usually a limited number of menu items for the group of 25+. Sometimes we've had the leader pass around a menu on the bus, and/or be calling ahead of arrival to let the restaurant know how many and anything special. Sometimes, they have to discuss with the restaurant on arrival, and there is when you need to involved in that discussion, as you might need to help explain what aged and fermented means. Gluten free is probably not an issue. And you're on the right track by specifying what you can eat.

And of course you are on your own for half the lunches/dinners (not all-inclusive). And breakfasts are also negotiated with the hotels.

Posted by
14291 posts

"I disagree that its entirely up to the tour leader, however, as the restaurant has to be able to accommodate special needs and since its contracted ahead of time, and usually a limited number of menu items for the group of 25+."

Yes....but....it's up to the Tour leader to be able to communicate effectively with the restaurants in question. On 11 out of 12 tours, the tour guides I had were able to do that. #12, not so much.

Posted by
6106 posts

I didn't say "entirely" up to the guide, and I can only comment on my experience on my Rome tour where the vegetarians were really short changed. Again, maybe the vegetarians did not talk to the RS office.

For our tour, the guide had restaurants arranged in advance of the tour, my recollection is all courses were preselected. So, if someone on the tour communicated when they arrived to the tour that they were vegetarian, I'm not sure what the guide could/would do at that time. At our final meal, one of our courses was beef. The vegetarians skipped the course, just like the nondrinkers turned down the wine.

There was no discussion of food at the initial "meet up", except for one person mentioning that they were really looking forward to Cacio e pepi. There was no passing around of a menu on the bus or at any time during the day.

It could be that policies on menu have changed since 2019 and that RS has become more responsive to vegetarians. Still, I would have a discussion with the RS office. I sure wouldn't buy a tour and then show up for it thinking my diet needs would be accommodated, even if I thought it was a reasonable request.

I have a daughter who is vegetarian so options for vegetarians are always on my radar.

Posted by
27450 posts

I'd recommend checking the tour details (https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/france -- select tour and click on "What's Included") to see how many non-breakfast meals are actually included on the tour(s) you're considering. That will give you an idea of how often you may be somewhat at the mercy of a pre-planned tour meal.