Category Archives: Biking

Vegan Man in a Van; Mountain Bike Road Trip to Tignes, France

I’ve been reading Sharon’s Bit of the Good Stuff blog for several years and always enjoyed the practical guidance and recipes that have helped me to follow a plant-based diet. Sharon’s blog is an inspiration, demonstrating that following a vegan diet isn’t difficult and this movement grows, it gets easier and easier to eat in this way. Once you’re in a routine, eating day-to-day is easy. We all have our tried and tested mealtime favourites. We know where we can go for vegan-friendly lunches and snacks.

I’ve found it more challenging when I step outside of this routine, perhaps working away from home or visiting new places. However, with a little extra thought and preparation, it’s not hard to overcome any potential difficulties and continue to eat healthy, plant-based food wherever you are.

Last July, I took a road trip to France with a few (non-vegan) friends and below I share a few reflections on what was a fantastic trip. The tips I offer on going on a road trip are perhaps obvious enough but, hopefully, some of these words might show how it is to maintain your plant-based diet, even when you’re the only Vegan in the Van… Continue reading

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A Trip to Pezanas and Vegan Self Catering in France

Last month, we strapped 3 mountain bikes to the top of the car, headed through the Eurotunnel and made our way to South West France for our summer vacation.

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It’s the furthest south that we’ve ever travelled by car and we split the journey over two days, with a stopover at Orléans. The next morning, we continued our journey which took us over the spectacular Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world!

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We hired an apartment just outside Pezanas, a beautiful historic town with lots of charm and atmosphere.

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Our Summer Adventure in the French Alps

During the school summer break, we strapped three bikes to the roof of our car and headed across on the Eurotunnel to France. Our destination – the beautiful French Alps.

Beauregard

La Clusaz, a short drive away from our hire chalet, soon became our favourite place to hang out. It’s a great family-friendly place, with so many activities going on that I felt like I’d landed in a scene from Where’s Wally!

La Clusaz

The village was filled with activities for all ages – inflatables for the small kids, summer luge, zip wires and a big air bag for the older kids, as well as an ice rink and swimming pool.

La Clusaz Collage

Lil’ L loved the big air bag! The slope is actually designed for ski jump practice but, in the summer, you can slide down it in an inflatable tyre. It was really popular with kids and adults alike. Literally everyone I watched jump had a big smile on their face :o)

Lil' L Air Bag Jumps Collage

From La Clusaz, you can take cable cars up into the mountains for hikes, cross country biking and downhilling.

Beauregard cable cars

Our hiking adventures took us through alpine meadows…

Beauregard hike

Alpine flowers

through forests and streams…

Hiking - Beauregard to La Clusaz

Hiking - La Clusaz woods

and up and down rugged hills…

Col de la Croix Fer Hike

where we came across these beautiful creatures

Cow in the Alps

The weather wasn’t the best, but we made sure to make the most of the sun when it came out.

Hiking from La Clusaz

We did get caught out one day whilst hiking on the top of a mountain. The sky suddenly went dark, and then the most almighty storm set in. We ran as fast as we could down the mountain, slipping and sliding in the torrential rain, with deafening claps of thunder and forked lightening overhead. It was exhilarating (and just a little bit scary too!)

Beauregard view

For the first time ever, it was me that was left trailing behind on the bike rides!

Cycling adventures

It’s incredible how much Lil’ L has improved at hill climbing in the past year. Last year, I was the one waiting at the top of hills as M patiently coached him up the hill. Now, he flies up the hills and stands waiting for me!

Lil L Biking Collage

I’m seriously going to have to up my game as I don’t want to be ‘slow mum’. That’s just not cool!

As well as hiking and biking, I loved running in the stunning countryside surrounding our chalet. After climbing up and down hills for three weeks, my body’s definitely stronger and more toned. I’d love to keep it that way!

Cycling from Thones

Other activities that Lil’ L loved this holiday included swimming, reading, playing chess and Diablo. He’d been patiently waiting for a new Diablo for weeks so, when we finally gave it to him at the Eurotunnel terminal, he couldn’t wait to get started. He even managed to spin it in the car!

Lil L France Activities 2014

We were really pleased with our hire chalet, which was spacious, modern and came with a fully-equipped kitchen. When in France (with the exception of Paris), we always prepare our own meals. Not only does it save us a small fortune, but it can be difficult to find vegan-friendly eateries, especially in this area of the Alps (aka ‘Cheeseland’!).

In fact, I didn’t see a single vegan option on the menus I looked at. No matter though, as I was more than happy to cook, especially as M was around to help out. Back home, I’m usually in the kitchen on my own, so it was lovely to have some company!

Thones Chalet Collage

Since we were travelling by car, I took a few supplies from home that would either be hard to come by (like nooch and nettle tea) or a lot more expensive in France (like big packs of almonds and cashews). I also took some herbs and spices to save having to buy more.

Fortunately, non dairy milks and yogurts are readily available in the French supermarkets. The Bjorg brand has lots of vegan-friendly products, including delicious mushroom and aubergine pates. We found them on the ‘Bio’ (organic) aisle, along with the milks and tofu. Bjorg tofu is different to the tofu you find in the UK, as it’s UHT and doesn’t need pressing. It’s chewier than our regular tofu, but I find it works well when diced into small cubes and cooked in sauces.

Vegan Food in France Collage

The one thing that always catches me out in France though is the hummus – for some unknown reason, most of the brands contain cheese!

Mixed Salad

All the meals we made were simple and quick to prepare. For lunch, we loved big colourful salad plates, beans on toast (we found Heinz baked beans on the world food aisle!), or baguettes filled with stir-fried veg. For our main meals, we enjoyed pasta, curries, fajitas, French bread pizzas, stir-fries and couscous dishes.

Creamy Red Lentil Curry

The three weeks flew by and, before we knew it, it was time to head home. We’re now back into the routine of work, school and evening clubs and activities, so week days are pretty full on. I’m looking forward to lots of weekend biking adventures though, crunching our way through piles of Autumn leaves. I just need to sneakily get some extra hill practice so I can keep up with those boys 😉

I hope you had a wonderful summer too
Did you manage to get away on vacation or for day trips?
What was the highlight of the summer for you? 

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Goult, Provence, Summer 2013

Last month, we were lucky enough to visit the beautiful region of Provence in France. We travelled by car, stopped overnight in Fontainebleau, then headed to the historical village of Goult, which was to be our home for two weeks.

Goult Provence France 2013 2

We stayed in a sweet little cottage, which we rented from Eva, a very kind and welcoming Swedish lady that had lived in Provence for many years.

The cottage had everything we needed for a comfortable stay, including a fully equipped kitchen.  Whenever we stay in France, we tend to prepare our own meals. It’s way cheaper (we would easily have spent £60 per day if we’d eaten out), plus I’ve found it near-on impossible to find vegan cuisine outside the big towns and cities.

La Joliette Goult Collage

I did bring a few supplies from England with me (mainly bags of raw nuts as these tend to be expensive in France). We bought fresh bread, salad, fruits and veg from the shops in Goult and did our main grocery shops at the hypermarche in Apt. The big supermarkets often have a ‘bio’ (organic) aisle which stocks health foods, wholegrains and ‘free from’ products. We found non dairy milk (including Alpro) in the long life milk section, and soya yoghurts (such as Sojasun) on the chilled yoghurt aisle. We also found big tubs of ready-made houmous, much to Lil’ L’s delight 😉

Lil L at La Joliette, Goult France 2013

All the meals we prepared were quick and easy. For lunch, we’d have big plates of salad and crudites, served with freshly baked ‘6 cereales’ bread. We also found Heinz baked beans on the ‘International’ aisle of the hypermarche, which made a tasty quick lunch served on toast.

For evening meals, I’d stir fry a big pan of veggies with spices, then use them as a basis for Mexican fajitas, Moroccan couscous or Indian curries. We also made tomato & basil pasta dishes, red lentil dals and French bread pizzas.

While we were out and about, the boys did eat the odd ice cream, crepe or patisserie but I stuck to nuts, seeds and dried fruit snacks. My stomach appreciated it.  Normally on vacations my stomach feels very unsettled but not this time. I didn’t have a single stomach ache whilst we were away 🙂

We enjoyed so many activities on this vacation! In the mornings, there was tennis playing and frisbee throwing in Goult; swimming at nearby St Saturnin; exploring in the Foret des Cedres in Bonnieux; paddling in the crystal clear waters at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and plenty of biking 😉

Provence Activity Collage

After lunch, we would often go exploring by car, hiking up to hill-perched ancient remains…

St Saturnin Provence France 2013 4

and visiting nearby towns and cities, including the historical and vibrant Avignon.

Avignon Summer 2013

Back at the cottage, we would chill out in the ‘cave’, reading, drawing, playing cards and watching films.  Early evening, I also enjoyed going for runs up and down the hills round Goult, taking in the beautiful scenery 😀

Goult Provence France Summer 2013

Biking was a big part of our vacation this year. We took our own bikes (strapped to the top of the car) and enjoyed exploring Goult and the surrounding countryside. We cycled past vineyards, olive groves, lavender fields and through cedar forests. It was such a feast for the senses!

Lil' L Biking back from Bonnieux, Provence, France 2013 2

Often, in the mornings, we would cycle to neighbouring villages, which tended to be perched on top of a hill.

Bonnieux Provence France 2013 3

It was challenging at times for Lil’ L …

Lil' L Biking in France 2013

… and there was the odd injury :/ …

Lil' L Biking Injuries in France 2013 3

… but it was worth it.  In addition to the great sense of achievement he felt at having ‘conquered’ another hill, there were the rewarding refreshments at the village cafes…

Lil' L in Roussillon France 2013 2

and spectacular views to take in

Me Biking in France 2013

I also took on my own challenge this year and decided to ride a section of Mont Ventoux.  I hadn’t done any hill training on my bike this year, so I knew I wouldn’t be in shape to ‘conquer’ Ventoux, but I thought I’d at least attempt the last 6.5km section.

I left M and Lil’ L eating nutella crepes at Chez Reynard…

Lil' L eating crepes Summer 2013

… and set off on my Marin full suspension mountain bike (much to the amusement of the ‘roadies’) ….

Me on Mont Ventoux Summer 2013 2

… praying that my 13 year old gaffer taped shoes would hold out!

The final 2km seemed more like 20km, but I eventually made it to the summit.

Me Cycling Mont Ventoux

It was a fantastic experience. I’m so glad that I did it!

The two weeks flew by and it was soon time to pack up and head back home, feeling refreshed, revived and fitter than when we’d arrived!

Lil' L leaving France Summer 2013

Provence is such a beautiful area of France.  Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to return one day

Me & Lil' L in Goult France 2013

 

Do you choose to cook on vacations? If so, what are your favourite dishes to make? Do you have any tips for quick and easy meals?

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Birthday Celebrations & a Chocolate and Lime Vegan “Cheesecake”

This week it was my birthday.  I never imagined that birthdays would be as much fun at the ripe old age I am now, but how wrong I was.  I actually think this was my best birthday yet! I had a fantastic day, made all the better by the fact that M was able to take the day off work 😀

During the day, we managed to fit in lots of my favourite activities (as you’ll see, eating crops up a lot 😉 )  We started off with one of my favourite bike rides, along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Limpley Stoke where we stopped at the Angel Fish Cafe for a toasted tea bun and cup of coffee.  We then continued through Monkton Coombe, the Two Tunnels, Bear Flat, Widcome and into the centre of Bath.

Me on my Birthday 2013

Along the way, we saw lots of wildlife, including this very cute baby rabbit

Baby Rabbit

For lunch, we went to one of my favourite restaurants in Bath – Thai Basil on Walcot Street – where I had a Thai red vegetable curry.  It was creamy and full of delicious fragrant flavours.  This has got to be one of my favourite curries ever!

Thai Basil - Thai Red Curry

After school, we went to the cinema with Lil’ L to see Epic.  On the way, we stopped off at Hotel Chocolat to buy some vegan chocolate (I can highly recommend the Gianduja Bombe Selector – it’s totally lush!)

Epic the Movie 2013

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For dinner, we went to another one of my favourite restaurants, the Nepalese Yak Yeti Yak, where we had the delicious Dal Bhat Tarkari (vegetarian/vegan set menu).

Yak Yeti Yak - Vegetarian Platter

Even though I was full up, I couldn’t leave without having the Kir dessert.  This is one of my favourite desserts ever.  It’s a creamed coconut rice pudding lightly spiced with cardamom. I’m going to have to try at make this at home one day. It’s so yummy!

For my birthday cake, I chose to make one of my all-time favourites – Chocolate and Lime Vegan “Cheesecake”.  I much prefer these ‘no bake’ cheese cakes to any kind of baked cake, plus they’re almost impossible to fail at.  You simply throw the ingredients in the food processor, whizz it together then freeze!

Raw / No Bake Chocolate and Lime Cashew "Cheese" Cake

Here’s how I made it…

Note: Almonds and cashews tend to be much cheaper in Asian supermarkets or in the World Aisle of large supermarkets.  For this dessert, I used Aasani almonds and cashews, which are available from the larger UK Tesco stores.

 

We finally got round to eating a slice of birthday cake yesterday and it was absolutely gorgeous!  All three of us loved it and, even though Lil’ L went back for seconds, there’s still plenty in the freezer to share with friends and family (if they’re lucky 😉 )

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! xx

What would be your ultimate birthday cake?

Do you still enjoy your birthdays as much as when you were a kid? (or even enjoy them more, like me!)

 

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Biking, Out & About in Bath