Hi everyone! I left Copenhagen on October 1 and arrived in Lancaster, England for my study abroad program. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by school the past few weeks (it is called study abroad after all), so I’ve only now had the chance to sit down and write a bit more about my adventures. This will be the first of a few posts recounting my adventures and some new lessons I’ve learned!
Over the past two months, I’ve become close friends with spontaneous adventures. These kinds of adventures are off-the-cuff, last minute crazy ideas to go somewhere cool and involve very little planning besides buying a train ticket. They can also be the definitive nightmare for food allergic kids.
While I was in Denmark, I adventured up to Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city. I booked a hotel room, looked into the area, decided on my plans for the day, and went! It was a wonderfully (planned) adventure and Aarhus was a beautiful city to adventure around in. That night, I realized that I could stay in Aarhus for another day and discover more or I could do a crazy adventure all the way up to the northernmost town in Denmark, Skagen, famous for its watches and picturesque scenery. I did a look through on train times and decided to go!
Somehow in the middle of all of this excitement, I forgot that I needed to eat. I had breakfast while in Aarhus, but by the time I got to Skagen (it’s about 3.5 hours north of Aarhus), I was getting a bit hungry! I knew that local cafes in a rural Danish town may not be safe — not only do they probably have cross-contact issues on any and all food, they may not even speak English! I was a little dumbfounded about what to do.
I realized I really needed to go the bathroom and went hunting for some public restrooms (a common occurrence in all Danish towns). As I was turning the corner toward the bathrooms, I stumbled up on a Fakta, a Danish chain grocery store. The lightbulb immediately went off — I could get some fruit, some cheese, water or soda, and even some safe bread. After using the facilities, that’s exactly what I did! It was the perfect solution to the problem. My suspicions were also confirmed: the checkout lady only spoke Danish! I could only imagine what a disaster going to a small cafe could have been.
I always carry a backpack when I’m adventuring (for an umbrella, a book, and any other travel necessities), so I stored my newly purchased food in my backpack as I went adventuring toward Grenen, the northernmost point in Denmark. It was about a 45 minute walk up the coast from Skagen, so I devoured a couple of apples and a bit of cheese on my walk there. While at the northernmost point, I finished my meal (with a couple more apples and a bit more of cheese).
I then realized on my way back that I would need some snacks for the train ride back to Copenhagen (7.5 hours in total), so I stopped by the Fakta on my walk back to the train station in Skagen. It was great!
Most of my adventures in England have rarely been planned more than two weeks in advance, and York was a great example. York is this gorgeous, medieval English town that dates back to the Roman Empire. It has a central minster, rows of shops, a wonderful river walkway, and medieval city walls you can walk upon! I knew I had to visit York.
In all my excitement, I definitely forgot to look at restaurants and shops in the area! I’m usually so much better than this, but in all honesty I decided to go to York the day before. This isn’t the safest way to travel with food allergies, but it certainly does keep you on your toes!
Once arrived and after adventuring through the mid-day, I started to become a bit hungry. Thankfully, there a load of chains in the UK that are safe for me to eat at, including Greggs, a pastry shop. I always double check to make sure the pastries they’re serving are safe for me, but most them are either steak- or cheese-filled, so there’s usually always a safe option. I stopped by a Greggs in York for my lunch. I was a happy guy wandering around afterward with a full stomach.
I knew I’d be back in Lancaster before dinner-time, so I didn’t have to go restaurant searching. However, from my adventures in August, I knew how to go to restaurants I’d never been to before in a foreign country and make sure that I was completely safe in eating there. Plus, everyone here speaks English (with a fun accent)! It makes life much easier.
Spontaneous adventuring becomes harder with a variety of food allergies. If you have an egg, soy, dairy, or wheat allergy, it could become exponentially harder as most food that is guaranteed at shops or grocery stores contains one or more of those allergens. For someone only with all nuts, sesame, shellfish, and fish, safe food is easier to come by.
I’d always still encourage planning ahead and looking into potential restaurants in the area! But, it shouldn’t prevent you from going on crazy fun trips with friends to random spots. You could even plan to make sure you bring snacks with you (a great idea) in case you can’t find a safe restaurant in the area.