Tag Archives: 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

A Special Trip to Paris – May 2014

During May half term, we headed off on the Eurostar to spend a few days in Paris. Our buddies are living there for a year, so it was wonderful to see them and share in their amazing adventure! We stayed at their fab apartment in Issy for two nights, then moved to the heart of the city and spent two nights in Montmartre.

Me & Lil' L on the Metro

This photo makes me chuckle! 😀

We were determined to make the most of our short visit and packed a lot into each day. We visited the classic Paris sights – Louvre, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Galerie Lafayette – as well as a contemporary art market and Marvel Super Hero Expo (much to Lil’ L & M’s delight!)

Sightseeing in Paris

Most of my visits to Paris have been in Autumn/Fall, so I’d forgotten just how busy the city can be during the summer months. After quick stops at the tourist hotspots (which were heaving with people), we took up our favourite activity which is to simply wander the streets (or “flâner” as I think they say in French). For me, this is the best way to truly experience Paris.

Street View of Sacre Coeur
As well as soaking up the Parisian atmosphere and admiring the stunning architecture, we had lots of fun spotting street art by the infamous French Invader.  Apparently, there are over 1000 pieces of his art in Paris alone!

Invader Collage

I also loved spotting all the love graffiti that’s sprinkled across the city. I wish all graffiti had this sentiment!

Love Graffiti Collage

Lil’ L has never been to Paris before and he was most excited about seeing the Eiffel Tower. I was keen to take him at nightfall so he could see the tower lit up. I didn’t tell him about the hourly ‘sparkle’ as I wanted it to be a suprise 😉 We were on a bus heading to the tower when the 10 o’clock sparkle happened. Luckily, the bus turned a corner just in time, and we caught the whole show. I loved watching Lil’ L’s face as it sparkled. It was really special

Eiffel Tower Collage

We also caught the 11 o’clock ‘sparkle’ from the Trocadero. As an added bonus, the Paris Slalom World Cup Inline Skating battles were taking place and we got to watch the top three men in the world battle it out for first place. The Korean guy that came first was totally awesome! He wasn’t even phased when some idiot kept flashing a laser in his face. If you’ve got a keen eye, you might even spot me, M & Lil’ L in the background 😉

We made sure to balance the walking and sightseeing with plenty of chill-out time at cafés, parks and the apartments.

Lil L in Paris Collage

If the sun’s out, Jardin du Luxembourg is a great place to spend an afternoon. I loved watching the sailboats gliding across the pond. Very relaxing indeed!

Jardin du Luxembourg Collage

And of course, we spent a fair amount of time eating too 😉 I was amazed at the amount of veggie options that are now available in Paris, catering for all kinds of dietary choices from raw, macrobiotic, gluten-free through to hamburger joints and fast food. There are also ‘Bio’ (organic) supermarkets where you can stock up on health foods.

If you’re planning a visit to Paris, I highly recommend checking out the restaurant reviews on HappyCow and Trip Advisor. We tried a few places (including M.O.B. vegan burger joint and Pousse Pousse), but there were two clear favourites. For a quick lunch option, we loved Maoz Vegetarien near Notre Dame, which serves falafels stuffed in pittas to which you add salad and dressings from the self service bar. There was a great selection of salad options, including yummy beetroot and cumin-spiced carrots.

Veggie Restaurents in Paris Collage

In the evening, we enjoyed a visit to Vegebowl which serves Asian cuisine. We arrived as it opened and the place quickly filled up (always a good sign!) 90% of the dishes are vegan and those including dairy are clearly marked. A 3 course meal cost 12 euros, which is cheap for Paris. The dishes are named after their meat counterparts (which me and Lil’ L found a bit creepy) but the ‘meat’ was essentially tofu. We tried a whole range of dishes and all bar one (the Lemon “Chicken”) were really tasty. We especially loved the Basil Stir Fried Tofu, ‘Cashew “Chicken”’ and ‘Sweet and Sour “Pork” balls’.

After reading Vegan Miam’s review of the Gentle Gourmet Café, I’d really wanted to check out their vegan French desserts. Unfortunately, the two occasions we happened to be nearby it was mid-afternoon and the café was closed. Next time!

Finally, to round off what was an incredibly special trip to Paris, in the departure lounge at Gare du Nord, we spotted Hannah and Dan from our favourite band, London Grammar. They were on their way home after playing at the We Love Green Festival. I’ve listened to their album ‘If You Wait’ hundreds of times and it still sends shivers down my spine. I couldn’t resist popping over and saying hi to Hannah. She is so lovely!

I’ll leave you with ‘Sights’. Enjoy! xx

 

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Filed under Vacations, Vegetarian & Vegan Cafes

A Visit to Lanzarote Easter 2014

During the Easter school holidays, we were fortunate enough to be able to escape wet England and spend a couple of weeks on the volcanic island of Lanzarote. This is is our fourth visit to the Canary island. There’s clearly something special about this place that keeps drawing us back 

Lanzarote Hols 2014

Regardless of how busy the main resorts are, within a few minutes you can get away from it all and find complete peace and solitude.

Lanzo 5

All three of us ‘unplugged’ for the trip (no phones, iPads, computers, video games) and it was utter bliss! Lil’ L never run out of things to keep him occupied. In his ‘down time’ he sketched and read (the NERDS series by Michael Buckley was popular this holiday) …

Lanzarote Hols 2014 2

… while the rest of the time he was swimming, playing tennis, exploring, rock climbing, or playing on the beach.

Lil' L Lanarote 2014 Collage 1

When I asked him to name his ‘top three’ holiday highlights he said ‘swimming in the sea with the beautifully coloured fish’; ‘the Aqua Park’; and ‘spending time as a family’

Lanzarote Hols 2014 3

It’s funny how the littlest of things can totally captivate me….

Lanzo 3

… like finding this tiny yellow flower happily growing on the beach in a volcanic rock shelter

Lanzo 2

During our time away, I was studying for a Buddhist exam but luckily I could do this anywhere – at the cafes, on the beach, sitting on a rock, in a lava tunnel.

Cueve de los Verdes Collage

Most days I went for a morning run along the sea front which was totally exhilarating (the winds were seriously strong!) M also hired a mountain bike and went exploring in the volcanic national park.

Lanzarote Hols 2014 6

Once he’d pedaled to the top, he paused for a moment to take in the views…

Lanzarote Hols 2014 7

Lanzarote Hols 2014 8

… then munch his box of home-made trail mix (see even he’s started taking food photos now!)

Trail Mix in Lanzo

Talking of food, we ate really well this holiday. Most days, we prepared our own lunches. We ate lots of fresh salads, accompanied by six-seeded multigrain bread that was so fresh from the bakery that it was still warm

All the restaurants we visited had veggie options on their menu or were happy to accommodate us. I’m so grateful for this as I don’t think demand for veggie food is very high in Lanzarote! Pretty much everyone I saw was tucking into meats – steaks and racks of ribs the size of plates (literally!) – and chips. Not a veggie in sight!

Lanzo Lunch

In the Italian restaurants we asked for vegetarian pizzas without cheese, and they were utterly delicious! When you ask for a cheeseless pizza, they tend to substitute the cheese with lots of extra yummy grilled veggies 🙂

Another favourite was the veggie fajitas at the Mexican restaurant. A huge plate of sizzling veggies came accompanied with a bowl of chilli beans, rice, salsa, guacamole, sour cream (which I left) and tortillas. While M and Lil’ L ate a small amount of eggs and dairy this holiday (mainly ice creams), I chose to stay 100% plant based. It just suits me better.

Lanzarote Hols 2014 4

All three of us agreed that this trip was easily as good as our previous trips to Lanzarote, if not better! I think we all cherished every moment of it

Back home, life’s returned to its usual level of ‘busyness’, but I’m still determined to strip back and ‘declutter’ my life in pursuit of the ‘simple life’ that I yearn for. I’m still very far from that place but if I keep steering myself back on track, hopefully I’ll get there one day.

Lanzo 7

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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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Filed under Biking, Holidays, Vacations, Walking & Hiking

Lanzarote 2013 & Three Ingredient Pineapple Cake

Hi everyone!

I’m back at long last!  Sorry I’ve been away so much longer than expected.  I hope you all had a wonderful Spring break.  While I’ve really valued my ‘unplugged’ time, I’ve been looking forward to my return to blogging world.  I’ve missed you guys!

So what have I been up to?  Well, over Easter, M, Lil’ L and I were very fortunate to escape the freezing cold weather in the UK and head to the Canary Island of Lanzarote.  It was wonderful to spend some quality time with my boys, without all the distractions and ‘busyness’ of life back home.

We enjoyed chilling out on the beach and at cafes, chatting, reading, playing card games and sketching (cartoon drawing was particularly popular this holiday!)

We’re huge fans of Cesar Manrique, and we loved spending time at the sites he designed, including Los Jameos del Agua, Jardin de Cactus and his own house (now a charitable foundation) which is situated in a lava field!

Lanzarote - Jardin de Cactus

Jardin de Cactus, Lanzarote

During the holiday, we also got to spend some quality time by ourselves.  M really enjoyed biking in the volcanic national park…

Biking in Lanzarote - 500

while I loved my daily runs along the coast path and meditation by the sea.

Meditating in Lanzarote 1 - 500

Lil’ L loved playing on the beach, rock climbing…

Playing on the Rocks in Lanzarote - 500

Lil' L at Los Jameos del Agua Lanzarote 2 - 500

and leaping!

Lil L at Los Jameos del Agua 2 Lanzarote - 500

However, in contrast to all this boisterous activity, sometimes you’d walk round the corner and find him meditating!

Lil' L Meditating in Lanzarote - 500

He also spent a lot of time reading.  He got through about seven books! (‘Big Nate’ was a popular read this holiday).

Beach Reading in Lanzarote - 500

We did some great walks along the coast and in the volcanic national park.  Away from the resorts and towns, you could easily start to feel like you were on another planet!

Lanzarote Volcanic National Park 2 - 500

To be honest, when I saw the newspaper headlines about the freezing temperatures and chilling winds in the UK, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to our return.  However, we seem to have brought the good weather back with us.  Perhaps Spring has finally arrived for sure (fingers crossed!)  I’m loving the lighter mornings and evenings too

Inspired by the sunshine and warm weather, I chose to make a pineapple cake for my study class this week.  It was no ordinary cake though… it was fat free, dairy free and egg free!  A friend gave me the recipe a few years ago.  She’d spotted it in a newspaper, but I believe it was originally published by Kim and Rachael of the 4 Ingredients phenomenon.

Fat Free Pineapple Cake - 500 copy

Since it has no fat, its texture is different to other cakes, but it’s delicious none the less.  It’s one of my all-time favourite cakes and I’m happy to report that it got the thumbs up from my study group friends too 😀

Here’s how to make it…

Fat Free Pineapple Cake 2 - 500 copy

I wonder if this cake will work with crushed mangoes too? I’m definitely going to have to give it a try 😉

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.  I hope the sun is shining wherever you are xx

Link of the day: Orange and Almond Cake

Orange & Almond Cake 2

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Vacations