Tag Archives: biking

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

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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Filed under Biking, Vacations, Walking & Hiking

Something for the Weekend – Pineapple Sunshine Deepcrust Pizza

When the sun’s shining, June has got to be the most glorious month of the year in England, don’t you think? The countryside is lush and green, the roses are out in full force, and gardens are a hive of activity.

Roses in June - By the K&A Canal

And after all those months of rain, it’s so refreshing to go out running without an umbrella (yes, I did actually resort to that, much to the amusement of others!) and head out on my beloved bike.

Countryside around Bath

It feels so liberating to travel around on the bike. No queuing in traffic, no waiting for a bus or driving around looking for a parking slot, no expense. Just lots of fresh air, exercise and a chance to take in the beautiful views along the way

Kennet and Avon Canal with Swans - June

Swans and cygnets - K&A Canal - June

I much prefer to take the scenic route into the city centre rather than along the main roads. It only takes a couple of minutes extra, but it’s so worth it. I get to see lots of gorgeous creatures along the way, like these beauties.

Cows and Calves - Bath Countryside

I always give them a wave and often stop to say ‘hi’. They’re very patient with me and this one in particular politely feigns interest in my incessant chatter 😉

Cows in Bathampton

Along with my exercise and travel routines, this time of year, my appetite changes too, and I’m craving lots of fresh salads, fruit smoothies and frappuccinos.

Though my appetite for pizza is year-round, the toppings change to suit the season. To celebrate the arrival of summer, for me, nothing beats our ‘Pineapple Sunshine Deepcrust Pizza’.

PineappleSunshine Deepcrust Pizza (Vegan Style)

This is my vegan take on the classic Hawaiian pizza. The ham’s been removed, and replaced with an array of tasty, sunshine-filled veggies. If you wish, you could sprinkle on some vegan cheese, but these days me and the boys prefer to leave our pizzas cheeseless and let the veggies take centre stage.

Vegan Pineapple Sunshine Deepcrust Pizza

If you’re a subscriber to The Vegan Kind Monthly Subscription Box (TVK), you’ll have spotted this pizza on the June recipe card. It was tucked in with a whole bunch of fab vegan and eco-friendly goodies, including a jar of Mr Organic Italian Sun-dried Tomato Pesto. It was the first time I’d ever tried this brand of pesto and I seriously loved it! It has the most amazing flavour and it works beautifully on the pineapple pizza.

TVK8 Collage

For those of you that don’t receive the TVK box, I thought I’d share our pizza recipe here. I’ve also added some notes about gluten free and speedy options, as well as my vegan cheese recommendations (just in case you still love your pizzas cheesy 😉 )

 

Notes
GF option – I haven’t made a GF pizza myself yet, but ready-made bases/crusts are available to purchase in stores and online. In the UK, the Venice Bakery gluten free pizza bases come highly recommended (I’m looking forward to trying them myself!)

If you wish to add some vegan cheese, I can recommend the Violife brand. It tastes incredibly similar to dairy cheese, yet it’s made with coconut oil! In the UK, you’ll find it in independent health food shops and online.

For a super speedy dinner, we love to make French bread pizzas using a large multigrain baguette or ‘Grand Paysan’ loaf. Roast the veggies for about 15 minutes in a little olive oil. Slice the bread in half and lightly toast on both sides. Spread on the pesto, then pile on the veggies and serve.

What are your favourite things about June?
What kinds of foods are you enjoying right now?

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Filed under Dinners, Out & About in Bath

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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Filed under Biking, Holidays, Vacations, Walking & Hiking

Good Hemp Natural Refuel Shake Review & Giveaway

Today, I have my first ever guest post, and it’s been written by none other than M (my elusive ‘better half’ 😉 ) As an endurance mountain biker, he likes to use protein shakes to aid recovery after training sessions.  In this post, he reviews the Good Hemp Natural Chocolate Refuel Shake, which he recently tried for the first time.

Red Bull Mountain Mayhem

Good Hemp Refuel Shake Review

Refuel! Refuel! Eating and drinking is usually the first thing on my mind after a couple of hours stomping up and down hills on a mountain bike so this Good Hemp Nutrition product sounded promising if the name is anything to go by…

Good Hemp Natural Refuel Shake

I’ve tried recovery shakes before; generally containing dairy based proteins and invariably turning a super-natural neon yellow or green colour when mixed with water.  I guess the outlandish colours prompted me to look for something a little more natural looking although I also wanted to ditch the dairy as well.

Good Hemp Nutrition’s Refuel appears to be what I was looking for.  Made from natural hemp protein powder, it’s formulated to provide a balance of carbohydrates for recovery and protein for rebuilding muscles that have been busy.  You can read for yourself about the ingredients on the side of the tub or Good Hemp Nutrition’s website but apparently the protein contains all 20 amino acids; including the essential ones.

Good Hemp Ingredients 400

So what’s it like? Personally, I like it.  A dose of natural cocoa powder gives it a nice chocolaty taste without any overly-sugary sweetness.  It’s pleasant to drink; unlike some earthy hemp based shakes that I’ve previously tried.  It mixes easily with water to make a nice smooth shake; I like to imagine my body soaking it up appreciatively as I gulp it down

And has it improved my recovery time?  Are my legs stronger than they used to be? Am I toasting my riding buddies on every climb? I’ve just got to the bottom of my first tin so I think it’s a bit soon to even start to make any such claims.  Besides my life is hardly a laboratory for testing nutritional products.  However, I feel good and I feel refuelled and that’s all I could ask for. Enjoy the trails!

Bike Pause by the Holburne Muesum

 

GIVEAWAY! NOW CLOSED!

M must really like this shake as he’s coming to the end of his first tub and is already planning to order two more!

Do you fancy trying it yourself?  I’ve been in touch with the good people over at Good Hemp and they’ve kindly offered a tub of their Natural Refuel Shake and a shaker for me to giveaway on my blog 🙂

There are three ways of entering:

  1. Leave me a comment below.  Anything will do, but I’d love to hear what sports you’re into, or whether you’re training for a specific event at the moment.  Next up for M and I, is Bike Bath this coming weekend (23rd-24th June).
  2. Promote the giveaway on Facebook, by clicking on the ‘Like’ button below this post, and leave a comment below to let me know that you have done so.
  3. Tweet the giveaway with something like “Check out @GoodStuffSharon for a @GoodHempNutri Refuel Shake Review & GIVEAWAY!”, then leave me a comment below to let me know you have done so.

If you enter all three ways, you’ll triple your chances of winning 🙂

The giveaway is open to anyone residing in the UK (sorry international readers!)

The closing date is Thursday 27th June 2013 at midnight GMT.

Good luck everyone!

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Filed under Biking, Nutrition, Reviews