Category Archives: Holidays

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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Filed under Biking, Holidays, Vacations

Dairy Free / Vegan Advent Calendars – Top Picks for 2014

Once again, Christmas has sneaked up on me. I thought I’d misheard someone this morning when they said it was 5½ weeks until the big day. Seriously, how did that happen? I really need to get myself organised, make some lists, start thinking about gifts and festive foods. However, first things first… we need to get some advent calendars. Preferably one each, and definitely chocolate calendars. What a wonderful excuse to have to eat chocolate every day for a whole month 😉

There seems to be more choice than ever this year of dairy-free / vegan calendars and especially calendars designed for children, which is really lovely to see. These calendars use rice milk instead of dairy, and are suitable for any milk chocolate lovers.

Whether you’re a milk or dark chocolate lover though, I have a wonderful selection for calendars for you. Here are my top picks for 2014…

For the Milk Chocolate Lovers

Moo Free Organic Dairy Free Advent Calendar
This award winning calendar is made in the Moo Free dairy free UK factory, and is filled with organic, fair-trade, dairy free rice milk chocolate. A full list of UK and worldwide high street and online stockists can be found here. It’s great to see that Moo Free has made it all the way across the globe to Australia and New Zealand!

120g / RRP £4.75

Moo Free Advent Calendar 2014

Holland & Barrett Dairy Free Alternative to Milk Chocolate Advent Calendar
These calendars are filled with organic, fair-trade, dairy free rice milk chocolate and come in two different cute designs, one blue and one pink.

125g / £3.99 (currently buy one get one half price)

Holland & Barrett Dairy Free Advent Calendar blue

Plamil Organic Fairtrade Milky Dairy Free Advent Calendar
This fun, brightly coloured dairy free milk chocolate advent calendar is made in the Plamil factory which never uses dairy, gluten or nuts. It’s available to buy directly from Plamil. You can get 10% off your first order by entering the code FIR14 at checkout.

125g Price: £4.95

Plamil Dairy Free Advent Calendar

Tesco & Sainsbury’s ‘Free From’ Calendars
It is really encouraging to see that UK supermarkets have started selling ‘Free From’ calendars made with rice milk. Hopefully more will follow suit in the future. So far I’ve spotted dairy free calendars in Sainsbury’s (72g / £2.69) and Tesco (72g / £3.25. Currently on a ‘3 for 2’ offer until 23/11/14)

Tesco Free from advent calendar

For the Dark Chocolate Lovers

And for the dark chocolate lovers, I have two beautiful high quality advent calendars.

Montezuma’s Organic and Vegan Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar
This calendar is filled with 240g of Montezuma’s organic house blended chocolate. New for 2014, each window has a picture behind it! It’s available from the Montezuma’s high street shops  and online.

240g / £9.99

Montezumas-Christmas-Advent-Calender

Hotel Chocolat Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar
This high quality, super stylish calendar is filled with 24 Christmas sculptures, including reindeer, snowmen, penguins and enchanted Christmas trees, cast in smooth 70% dark chocolate. It’s available from Hotel Chocolat shops or you can order online. If you’d like to send the calendar as a gift, a personalised message card can be included for free when ordered online. Use the code VNOV10 at the checkout to receive 10% off (expires 23/11/14)

125g / £12.50

Hotel Chocolat Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar Collage

 

Have you bought your advent calendar yet? If so, do you tend to go for a chocolate calendar or do you prefer the more traditional wooden or cardboard ones?

 

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Filed under Holidays, Treats & Sweets

Bluebell Woods and Bath Skyline

I don’t remember a year ever being as wet as this one! Here in Bath, rarely has a day gone by without rain. In the press, there’s talk of an impending heatwave. Hmm I’ll believe it when I see it.

Last weekend we finally had a break in the weather and we were itching to get outside and make the most of it. It was actually a Bank Holiday here in the UK and we had three days of warmth and sunshine

We were pretty much outdoors for the whole weekend. On Saturday, we headed out on our bikes along the Kennet and Avon Canal and rode the Two Tunnels circuit. This is one of my all-time favourites cycle routes. I love riding through the Combe Down Tunnel. It’s got such a cool vibe! Just over one mile in length, it’s the longest cycle and walking tunnel in the UK.

Riding along the Kennet & Avon Canal Towpath

On Sunday, we met our friends for a drink in Marlborough then headed to West Woods at Clatford, North Wiltshire. English bluebells bloom in late April/early May and you’ll find many woods are literally carpeted in them!

Bluebell Woods Clatford

We timed our visit to Clatford just right. By going later in the day we found that everyone was leaving just as we arrived. For most of the walk, we were literally alone in the woods. It was an incredible experience. Truly magical!

Of course there were plenty of sticks and climbing to keep Lil’ L and our friends’ grandson happy 😉

Bluebell Woods at Clatford 2

On Monday (our bonus day off), we went for a hike along the Bath Skyline. We did the circuit back to front and started at Bathampton Woods. Another magical place, filled with mossy trees and stones

Bath Skyline Walk 1

Bath Skyline Walk 3

It’s super steep in places, so a great workout!

Bath Skyline Walk 2

The official circuit guide says that, on average, people burn 735 calories on this walk! Luckily M had stuffed his backpack with leftover pizza and trail mix to keep us going.

Bath Skyline Walk 4

Bath Skyline Walk 5

The climbs are worth it as you’re rewarded with the most spectacular views of Bath city. It was pretty hazy on Monday but the views were still incredible!

Bath Skyline Walk 6

Bath Skyline Walk 7

We finished our walk in the city centre, which was abuzz with tourists and locals. It’s amazing how a spot of sunshine can totally transform the vibe of the city. It actually felt like summer had arrived! The bars and cafes were packed with people drinking and dining al fresco. Sadly it was short lived as the rain started again on Monday night, but at least we made the most of it while it lasted!

How’s the weather where you are? Today it’s so dark and rainy that it actually feels like winter’s returned! Not great weather for us, but perfect if you’re a slug or snail 😉

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Filed under Holidays, Out & About in Bath, Walking & Hiking

Christmas 2013 Holiday Highlights

As of today, the Christmas holidays are officially over in our house. For me and the boys, the holidays have been total bliss. All the usual busyness of daily life stopped in our house and we enjoyed two weeks of ‘down-time’ together

Like many parts of the world, we’ve been experiencing freaky weather patterns these past few weeks, including frequent spells of torrential rain and gail force winds. Our local meadows (pictured in my top banner) transformed into a big lake.

Bathampton Meadows Flooded Christmas 2013

On Christmas Eve, we awoke to find our garden completely submerged under water. The water levels were the highest that we’ve ever seen them before, reaching the top of Lil’ L’s slide. While the water did eventually drain away, as soon as we had more heavy rain, the garden flooded again.  Fortunately, our house is on higher land, so there’s no risk of it flooding.

Flooded Garden Christmas 2013

For Christmas Day, we headed over to my mum’s in Dorset. We were having such a nice time that we ended up staying five days!

Christmas 2013

We played games, watched films, and went on some lovely walks with the dogs. Father Christmas brought Lil’ L a laser gun set, and he and M had lots of fun and laughs running round the house and forest shooting each other (boys eh?)

Lil L in Verwood Forest Christmas 2013

Using the weather tracking tool on our mobiles, we were able to time our walks to avoid the worst of the rain. Most days were dark and cloudy, but Boxing Day was exceptionally bright and dry, so we headed to Bournemouth.

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_1

It was utterly glorious!

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_4

We took a long walk along the promenade, played with the dogs on the beach, had coffees on the pier, and played the tuppence slot machines in the arcade.

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_2

I find it so invigorating by the sea this time of year. It’s great for clearing the old cobwebs away!

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_3

Love these colourful beach huts on Bournemouth promenade!

Beach Huts at Bournemouth

Food-wise, by far the best meal of the holidays was the Christmas dinner. My mum made the nut and lentil roast on Christmas Eve so, on Christmas day, we simply needed to prepare the veggies and gravy. Lil’ L said it was the best Christmas dinner he’s ever had! He even tried the Brussel sprouts and, though not keen on them on their own, he loved them mashed in ‘Bubble and Squeak’ (which we served on Boxing Day with the Chestnut and Mushroom Jalousie).

And thank you SO much for all your lovely comments about the Cranberry Glazed Red Lentil and Cashew Nut Loaf recipe. I was over the moon to hear how much you liked it!

I admit I’ve eaten far too much these past couple of weeks but I’m not worried about it. This week I’ll get back into my usual eating and exercising habits and, by the end of the month, I’m sure I’ll back back to my usual weight.  For me, this month is all about quick prep, low cost, tasty, healthy meals. I’ve got some really easy recipes to share with you, plus some awesome giveaways.

Time for me to officially bid farewell to 2013 and embrace the New Year.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy 2014 xx

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Filed under Holidays, The Garden, Walking & Hiking

Winter Solstice 2013 at Glastonbury

This year, the Winter Solstice happened to fall on a Saturday, so we took the opportunity to head to one of our favourite landmarks – Glastonbury Tor – to watch the sun set. It was a close call as the sun was already on its way down as we drove into the town.

With no time to spare, we headed straight up to the Tor…

Walking up to Glastonbury Tor

And we made it just in the nick of time!

Glastonbury Tor 400

For days, we’d been experiencing torrential rains and gail force winds here in the South West, and it had rained for most of Saturday too. However, just as the sun was setting on the Winter Solstice, the rain stopped, the clouds disappeared and we experienced the most beautiful sun set. It truly was a magical moment

Winter Solstice at Glastonbury 2013 1

As soon as the sun was down, the clouds came over and the heavy rain returned!!

We carefully made our way down from the Tor, trying not to get blown over in the gail force winds! Back in the town, we stopped for a warming drink and a quick browse in the The Speaking Tree before it closed. All three of us came away with a beautiful book…. mind you, it’s very hard to come away empty handed from that shop!  As we made our way back to the car, we stopped to admire all the amazing window displays.

Glastonbury Shops

Glastonbury Shops - December

Glastonbury Shops - December 5

Glastonbury Shops - December 2

Glastonbury Shops - December 3

Glastonbury Shops - December 4

I loved that little hedgehog!

Well, it’s Christmas Eve now and I still have a few more things to finish off, including Christmas cards and decorating the Christmas Cake, but I’m nearly there!  M and Lil’ L have the next two weeks off, and I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with them. This will be my last blog post for a while, as I’m going to ‘unplug’ for the holidays to give the family my full attention 😉

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
I look forward to catching up with you in 2014 xx

 

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Filed under Holidays