Serre Des Ormes Tries Vegan

Serre Des Ormes tries Vegan!

 
In Britain at least it seems you can’t go a single day without seeing a pro-Vegan or anti-meat program or newspaper headline and after watching, the acclaimed “The Game Changers, ” on Netflix, which is definitely worth a watch, we decided we should at least give a plant based diet a trial run. Our main motivation behind this was environmental but we were intrigued to see if it would also improve our, already pretty good, energy levels and it also gave us renewed motivation to try out some new recipes over the quiet(er) winter season.

Vegan meals
Some of our favourite vegan dishes.

It must be said that there were certain caveats to the new diet. I hesitate to use the word vegan as it can drum up a bad image, and reluctantly use the word “diet” as it implies restricting ourselves on what we eat. When I looked it up synonyms for the word diet include; regime, fast, restriction and even starvation but the a plant based lifestyle can actually open up a whole new variety of recipe options. The word “diet” actually comes from the Greek Diaita meaning “to live one’s life,” and from the Latin root word, “diaeta,” meaning a “manner of living”.

Anyway, I digress, the caveats…firstly we would continue to eat eggs laid by our free range chickens, not doing so simply doesn’t make sense to us. Secondly if invited to eat out we realised we may need to have some flexibility as we didn’t want friends or family feeling forced to change their cooking habits. The French restaurant scene has still not quite grasped the concept of a Vegan diet. Amusingly ,the menu on our local “vegan friendly” restaurant proudly presents Salmon served in a Vegan crust, on it’s A La Carte menu, no doubt served with a salad laced in mayonnaise and followed by a selection of local cheeses.

Provencal Market
Local Provencal Market

So November arrived and with no guests to cater for Kate excitedly started the meal planning. I am well aware we have a bit of a head start here. We have always had a fairly “flexitarian” diet, mainly vegetarian but with the occasional meat and fishes dishes. At this time of year the local market stalls are still overflowing with locally grown, organic fruit and vegetables, with more variety and colours than any supermarket back in the UK. Secondly Kate is a fantastic cook and will make the most out of the great ingredients to hand. Thirdly, our lifestyle at Serre Des Ormes allows us to have more free time for cooking, you will probably spend more time commuting to work than we do in the kitchen.

So did we feel healthier?

We wanted to find out for ourselves whether a plant based diet really made us feel healthier. We often wonder whether the celebrities who claim a vegan diet changed their life, saw the improvements simply because they had given up a lifestyle of late nights, drinking, drugs, smoking and a poor diet, rather than switching to Soya lattes for their morning caffeine hit!

We have to admit that there was no instant miracle feeling as some suggest, in fact we both felt pretty fatigued in the first week. However the timing of our trial also coincided with the end of a busy season at Serre Des Ormes and as the weather turns there is always a seasonal lethargy at this time of year.

Environmental

For us this is the “Game Changer”. Many newspaper articles will harshly lead you to believe mass industrialisation is not to blame for climate change but daisy the cow is! Giving up meat, however, is probably the single biggest thing we can do as individuals to help climate change. In my opinion we would yes be better to reduce our consumption of meat but also show willing to spend more on local, responsibly farmed meat promoting local farmers and producers rather than Supermarkets driving down prices and cutting producers profits, thus leading to more efficient, less environmentally farming methods. When we return to the UK the shelves and shelves of cheap meat in the supermarket is quite staggering compared to France.

We have certainly learnt a lot reading into the benefits of giving up meats on the environment and in the future would certainly change some of our habits but probably without cutting out all meat based products all together.

Meal Planning

Perhaps this was the greatest benefit to come out the “trial”. Kate enjoys nothing more than browsing through recipe books but this time with the added challenge of being dairy and meat free. There are so many vegan recipe books available and online recipes she was quickly dishing up amazing vegan burgers, delicious nut roast and I even managed a spinach lasagne. A plant based diet is not without its treats either; Vegan flapjacks and brownies will definitely be added to the assortment of bike snacks and I bet you didn’t know you can make meringues with chick pea water?

Vegan Flapjacks
Delicious Vegan Flapjacks

A plant based diet may need a bit more thought though and you can’t just open the fridge and make a quick cheese and ham sandwich but there is always a substitute, probably more nutritious and tasty.

Our OWN thoughts:

Remember one diet doesn’t suit all. Despite the headlines insisting one minute that a high protein / high fat diet is the way ahead and the next that a vegan diet is the new miracle cure for both your health and the climate very few headlines will conclude that perhaps somewhere in the middle is best. Eat healthy & exercise = feeling great!

Yes giving up meat may be the best way forward for the climate but don’t set yourself up for failure. If we just reduced our meat intake and treat it more as a luxury item supporting your local producer, farmer or butcher then we will drive out this obsession for low cost, bulk animal based products often coming from the far corners of the world.

Experimenting with a plant based diet has been a worthwhile and interesting exercise for us. Whilst I don’t expect us to change our habits significantly we will probably reduce our meat intake, particularly during the winter months when we have no guests staying at Serre Des Ormes. When we do buy meat or dairy products we will be certainly be prepared to pay more for local, responsibly farmed products. Spending a few more minutes in the kitchen experimenting with plant based recipes opens up a much wider choice of meals. One of the biggest benefits of the vegan craze is that there are so many food outlets offering a vegan menu… even the infamous Greggs Vegan Sausage roll! And there are masses of vegan recipes available on line.

So don’t necessarily give up on your turkey this Christmas but do have a think about where it has come from and perhaps consider alternatives such as a nut roast.

Some useful sources:

  • BBC Climate Change Food Calculator
  • The game changers scientific review and references
  • Lifestyle change eat less meat climate-change
  • How much would giving up meat help the environment?
  • Vegan diet what i learned.
  • To eat or not to eat 10 of the worlds most controversial foods
  • UK farmers climate crisis
  • Why do people hate vegans?
  • Electric Bikes

    The Electric Revolution…

     
    On a recent mountain bike trip to the alps, two walkers looked at our bikes in an amazement. “Wow, they are not electric” they said as we struggled past them. In France, home of the Tour de France, cycling’s most gruelling race, electric bikes are becoming more and more popular and not viewed as cheating but simply as a way to get out and explore the stunning surroundings.
     
    The e-bike market is growing rapidly across Europe, in the Netherlands, for example, revenue already outstrips traditional cycle sales. Their popularity in the UK is also growing rapidly and in cities such as London they are becoming increasingly popular for commuting to work. But is British pride limiting their recreational use as e-bikes are viewed as an easy way out? They shouldn’t be even, Fabian Cancellara one of the world’s greatest road time trialler sees the benefits “E-bikes are fantastic. I use them all the time. You can take the kids up mountains. You can arrive in your good clothes at a meeting. It’s so easy.”
     
    Electric Bikes at Serre Des Ormes
     
    For us at Serre Des Ormes, it is all about enjoying the fantastic countryside and sunshine together. The more people on two wheels the better, even if a little bit of battery power is needed to help boost moral and the enjoyment. We have had a number of guests now stay with us who have rented or brought their own electric bikes. For couples of different cycling levels they provide an opportunity to spend more time together on the bike and enjoy longer rides. Non-cycling partners come back from a ride grinning from ear to ear, for once it is not them suffering to keep up.
     
    In Europe the bike’s battery cuts out at 25km/h and it is all leg power which does mean a little bit of awareness is needed when cycling together. Hit a hill and that is when the e-bike comes into their own, even iconic mountains such as Mont Ventoux are no longer limited to the super fit. On a recent group trip to ride through the stunning Gorges de La Nesque and then up the much feared Bedoin climb of Ventoux, Kate accompanied 3 guests on electric bikes and 2 on road bikes. It’s one of those special days on a bike but 80km in length and with 2000m of climbing, it’s beyond many riders capabilities. Everyone came back that day with big grins on their faces.
     
    Ventoux Electric Bikes
     
    By using less and less power assistance e-bikes are also a perfect way to build both confidence and fitness and riders can feel than sense of progression. For keen cycling partners, by having your very own derny to chase around they can provide training motivation. My quickest time up the top half of Ventoux was achieved trying to chase an e-bike!
     
    At Serre Des Ormes there are so many fantastic routes on quiet roads for everyone to enjoy and we can suggest routes suitable for all types of bikes and riders. E-bikes can easily be rented from Albion Cycles which has a simple to use online booking system. Booking in advance is highly recommended, particularly in the peak summer season.

    Some top tips:

  • Remember the assistance is limited to 25km/h, this can be particularly important when riding with others on road bikes.
  • Build up the length of a ride gradually on an electric bike as although you will suddenly be able to go further with the battery assistance you may not be used to being on a bike for such a long time. If renting an electric bike think about taking your own saddle along to reduce the risk of saddle sores.
  • The battery will last most people at least a full day’s riding but remember not to be too over ambitious when planning a route. E-bikes are heavier than normal bikes due to the weight of the battery and would be very difficult to get over that final hill without battery assistance.
  • If riding with others on road bikes we would suggest renting the E-Road Bike from Albion cycles. These are more efficient at keeping up with road bikers on gradual downhills when the battery assistance cuts out.
  • Remember to charge the battery overnight! Also look out for charge points on route, the café at Chalet Reynard on Mont Ventoux has an arrangement with Albion Cycles to allow battery recharging whilst stopping for a quick coffee.
  • E-bikes are generally more expensive than equivalent road bikes and therefore unfortunately theft is not uncommon, therefore don’t leave your E-bike unattended.
  •  

    Mountain Retreat Yoga Week

    Mountain Yoga Retreat

     
    For 2019 we are extremely excited to be running our first mountain yoga week at Serre Des Ormes. A relaxing week in stunning mountain scenery with daily yoga classes tailored to suit you.
     
    The twice daily yoga classes will be led by Caroline Lofthouse who has an extensive background in both dance and yoga. Where possible we will hold the classes outside in our gardens and are planning at least one hillside yoga session so you can really immerse yourself in stunning natural surroundings. The group size will be limited to 6 and therefore we will be able to offer an exclusive and personal approach during your week with us.
     

    Mountain Top Yoga
                             Mountain Top Yoga

    Between yoga sessions you will be free to explore the fantastic walking, trail running or cycling on offer around Serre Des Ormes. We will be on hand to suggest our favourite routes and trails to help you make the most out of the holiday. Alternatively just relax by our own private pool, or on the sunny terrace.
     
    Gorges de La Méouge
                              Gorges de La Méouge

    On Thursday there will be the opportunity to visit the local Provençal market in Laragne. There are many stalls selling local and organic produce and you can buy a picnic before we make the short trip to the beautiful Lac de Riou. If conditions allow we are planning a yoga session on the shaded grassy lake shore before enjoying a picnic lunch and perhaps a swim.
     
    Lac de Riou
                              Lac de Riou

    The accommodation for the week is in our newly renovated 18th century farmhouse, Serre Des Ormes. With luxury en-suite rooms, library, rustic dining room, terrace, pool and gardens. Each morning a healthy, nutritious breakfast will be served including; porridge, muesli, granola, croissants, fresh bread, fruit juice, homemade jams and freshly laid eggs from our own hens. On 6 nights of the week a delicious two course evening meal will be prepared, using locally produced organic food where possible. Aperitif, hors d’oeuvres and wine is included with the evening meals.
     
    Dinner on the Terrace
                             Dinner on the Terrace

    Each afternoon a freshly baked cake is served; tea, coffee & fresh fruit are also freely available throughout your stay. Free WiFi is also available.
     
    Our 8 day (7night) yoga week will run from Saturday 7th to 14th September. The price is €945pp (based on 2 people sharing a room) and includes group airport transfer from Marseille airport or Aix TGV, 7 nights catered accommodation, local transport and yoga classes.
     
    For more information or provisional bookings please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
     

    Pancakes

    Delicious Breakfast Pancakes

    Kate has been busy testing out menu ideas for the year ahead. These breakfast pancakes are simple to make, delicious and a perfect way to set you up for a morning on the bike.  There is no added sugar but the banana makes them nice and sweet and they can easily be made gluten free too.  Serve with fruit or bacon and maple syrup. I’m sure they’ll be an instant hit with our guests this year.

     

    Delicious Breakfast Pancakes
                              Breakfast Serre Des Ormes Style

    Ingredients

    2/3 cup of oats
    1/3 cup of brown flour or oatmeal for GF
    1 mashed banana
    2 eggs
    ¼ cup of milk or any liquid for dairy free
    1 tsp cinnamon
    ½ tsp baking powder
    1 tbsp chia seeds or any seeds you have
    Good grind of salt

    Mix together all the wet ingredients then add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Fry small dollops in coconut or any oil.

    What a year…

    What a year it’s been….

    400 eggs laid by our hens for breakfast, 94 cakes baked to re-charge you every afternoon, far too many Strava discussions to mention, numerous ascents of Mont Ventoux and plenty of glasses of wine – what a brilliant season we have had in our 1st full year at Serre Des Ormes.

    We have loved meeting you all and whilst it may be a cliché, it really has been a case of you arriving as guests and leaving as friends. The amazing feedback you have given us about your holidays here  is what makes it all worthwhile for us both.  So, a huge thank you to you – we have enjoyed helping you discover and explore the stunning gorges, quiet roads and rolling hills that surround us whether that be biking, walking or running.

    You might be curious as to what is happening at Serre Des Ormes at the moment… well, the hens are taking a break and roaming the garden, jam production has started, a new kitchen is being put in so that Kate can get testing even more delicious dishes for evening meals and we are getting out and about to find more fantastic routes to share with you in 2018.

    We are delighted a number of you have already secured your booking at Serre Des Ormes for next year.. if you haven’t got round to it yet then please give us a shout so we can get the dates you want in the diary. A few of us have asked if you can take over the whole house for your stay – you absolutely can as long as there are enough of you – just get in touch and we can talk through the options for your club or group.

    See you in 2018
    Paul & Kate

    Cycling Holidays 2017

    Top tips for climbing Mont Ventoux

    Top Tips for climbing Mont Ventoux by Bike.

    Whether you are looking just to get to the top of this iconic mountain, or after a bigger cycling challenge then here are some top tips for climbing Mont Ventoux.

    The Easiest Way to cycle up Mont Ventoux.

    The easiest side to climb is definitely from the historic village of Sault. Although the longest climb (26km), Sault is at 760m so you already have a 400m headstart over the climbs from Bedoin and Maulacene. With an average gradient of only 4.4% it is still a fabulous climb but much more forgiving on the legs.

    The Best Way Up Mont Ventoux

    For an unforgettable day on the bike we thoroughly recommend combining it with a descent through the Gorges de la Nesque. Again starting from the market town of Sault, cross the plateau of lavender fields before climbing to the viewpoint at the head of the Gorges de la Nesque where you can enjoy the views before the long gradual descent through the Gorges. From here head North to Bedoin and the climb of Mont Ventoux before descending back down to Sault. It can get extremely hot on the south facing slopes of Mont Ventoux during July and August so you may want to consider doing this loop in an anti-clockwise direction or starting really early. Check out the route on Strava here.

    3 Times up Mont Ventoux

    If you are looking for a bigger challenge why not try climbing the three sides of Mont Ventoux in one day. With 4400m of climbing and descending, the “Cingles” (French for crazy!) is one of the ultimate cycling challenges. We recommend an early start for this one, often starting the climb in the dark which adds to the atmosphere of the day. By climbing the Bedoin side first you get the hardest and hottest climb out the way before descending to Malaucene and finally ending with the Sault climb. We can offer a full van support throughout the day so all you need to worry about is the pedalling.

    The weather

    The weather can be a bigger challenge than the climb itself, if the Mistral is blowing it can be extremely windy at the summit and you will see where the mountain gets it’s name,vent in venteux meaning wind in French. It can also get very cold at the top so be prepared to take plenty of clothes, you can be descending for a long time.

    How steep is it?

    Like the French Alps, the climbs are not as steep as back in the UK just a lot longer! The maximum gradient peaks at 12% and there are sustained sections of 10%. You need to be comfortable peddling at this gradient though the climb typically takes between 1 hour 45 minutes and 3 hours so you don’t want to be running out of gears in the first few kilometres.

    There is lots more technical information on each climbs profile on Climb by bike Climb By Bike.

    Come and find out for yourself!!

    Please get in touch with us if you need any more info or tips for climbing Mont Ventoux or too start planning your cycling holiday with us today.

    Happy Pedalling

    Paul and Kate

    Perfect energy bars for the bike

    Perfect Energy Bars for Cycling

    We just spent a great week ski touring in the Queyras. Food choice on a trip like this is really important as you need to carry all your daytime snacks for the whole week. These bars worked really well and they taste great. The best thing about this recipe is you can change most of the ingredients to incorporate what you fancy or what you have in the cupboard. The following is a recipe for one of our favourites. Our guests can look forward to these during their relaxing cycling holiday at Serre des Ormes this summer. I just need to resist testing them with a cup of coffee.

    Ingredients

    Cycling Holiday Snacks
    Ingredients for the perfect energy bar

    100g Butter (or Coconut Oil)
    100g Honey
    200g Oats
    50g Toasted Almonds
    75g Chopped Dates
    75g Chopped Figs
    45g Chopped Apricots
    45g Cranberries
    65g Mix of Flax, Chia, Pumpkin and Sunflower

    Melt the butter and honey in a pan, add all the dried fruit then add all the other ingredients and thoroughly combine. Push into an 20cm square tin and level off with a fork. Bake for 25 at 150 degrees, cool slightly in the tin then cut into 16 squares before completely cooled. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

    Happy pedalling. Kate

    Cycling Holiday Snacks
    Perfect Energy Bars for the Bike

    Berry and Banana Oaty Muffins

    Delicious Berry and Banana Oaty Muffins

    Here at Serre des Ormes we are always looking for healthy new recipes to fuel our bike rides or runs. These Muffins are great as they use hardly any sugar or fat and they are delicious as well as filling.

    Ingredients (Makes 18):

    200g of Wholemeal Flour or Rye Flour
    200g Porridge Oats
    75g Soft Brown Sugar or Honey
    3tsp Baking Powder
    1tsp Cinamon
    1tsp Salt
    2 Mashed Banana
    2 eggs, separated
    3 tbsp Sunfower Oil
    250ml Milk
    125g Mixed Berries (or berry of choice) – fresh or frozen
    50g Pecans or Almonds

    Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

    Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, mix in the mashed bananas, milk, oil and egg yolks then the berries. Finally, whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold them into the mixture. Share the mixture between 18 muffin cases and bake in the oven for about 35 mins or until golden brown on top.

    Healthy Bike Snacks - Muffins

    Enjoy:)

    Cycling Week_Itinerary

    The perched villages of Ventavon and Upaix
    This is one of our favourite routes and we will often do it as a group ride at the beginning of the week.It’s a perfect introduction to the area without too much climbing and plenty of options to lengthen or shorten to suit all levels. From Serre Des Ormes descend through the spectacular Gorges de la Meouge and into the apple orchards of the Buech valley. We then head Northwards on the quiet road alongside the canal offering superb views of the Ecrins National Parc before stopping for a coffee or lunch and enjoying the fantastic views from the Auberge in the village of Ventavon. From here there are a number of options for returning back to Serre Des Ormes, either via the village of Upaix, where the lookout tower is well worth the short climb or via Col de Faye, a perfect first col for the week.

    Distance 74km, Climbing 860m (Via Upaix)

    Check out this route on our Strava page.

    Tour of Chabre
    A local classic!!! This is a perfect ride for a shorter day or as way of tackling your first alpine col. The route first climbs Col St Jean offering fantastic views of Pic de Bure and the Alps to the North before descending to the village of Orpierre and its’ stunning rock faces which are popular with climbers from all over the world. It is well worth passing through the narrow streets of the village and stopping for a well earned coffee or lunch. From Orpierre you continue descending past the many apple orchards to reach the main Buech Valley. Your route now takes you through the dramatic Gorges de la Meouge, where the river weaves its way under, around and even through the steep cliffs. A geologists paradise.

    If you have energy left in the legs there is an option to climb Montagne de Chabre, our local test piece! The top of this hill is very popular with parapenters and affords a fantastic 360 degree view of most of the days ride.

    Distance 64km, Climbing 850m (Excluding the climb of La Chabre)

    Check out this route on our Strava page.

    Montagne du Lure
    Montagne du Lure, which is locally referred to as Mont Ventoux’s little sister, is one of our guest’s favourites. The route described starts in the citadel town of Sisteron but it is also possible to ride as a much larger loop from Serre Des Ormes. From Sisteron the route heads towards the stunning Jabron valley and the small village of Valbelle with great views of the North Face of the mountain. From here you will start the long but gradual climb along the quiet tree lined road to Col du Pas de la Graille (1597m) and then over Montagne de Lure (1736m). The final section of the climb opens up to give magnificent views of the Sommet de Lure, surrounding valleys and beyond to the Alps. The descent is one to remember and the climb is quickly forgotten on quiet, well-surfaced roads passing through the small ski station. Eventually the village of St-Etienne-Les-Orgues is reached where a stop for a coffee and crêpe is well worthwhile before heading back to Sisteron and a well-earned beer.

    Distance 82 km Climbing 1600 m

    Check out this route on our Strava page.

    The local cols of the Meouge Valley
    This is a perfect route for a shorter day exploring the local Cols around Serre Des Ormes. The climb to Col Araud is relatively short but offers superb views of the mountains around Eourres. You will then descend back to the main valley through the pretty village of Lachau. The climb through Izon-la-Bruisse is one of our favourites on quite roads and a chance to bag two cols (Muse and St-Jean) in one climb and offers stunning views of the Meouge valley and then northwards to the Alps. Also look out for the memorials to the 42 members of the resistance who were executed by the Nazis in the second world war.

    Distance 43km Climbing 730m

    Check out this route on our Strava page.

    Tour of the Jabron
    Warm up the legs on the valley road to the village of Sederon before the relatively gentle climb to Col Pigiere and into the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region. From here enjoy a long gradual descent down through the Jabron valley, offering stunning views of Montagne du Lure. The route then takes you into the Citadel town of Sisteron which is well worth exploring before returning through the stunning Gorges de La Meouge.

    Distance 83km Climbing 950m

    Check out this route on our Strava page.

    Mont Ventoux – Le géant de Provence – From Serre Des Ormes
    Mont Ventoux is often the highlight of the week and this route takes in the famous summit of Mont Ventoux, starting from Serre Des Ormes. The ride begins with a gentle spin along the valley road to Sederon before climbing to Col de l’homme Mort and then descending through Ferrassières to the village of Sault. Enjoy a coffee and croissant before the big climb of the day.

    From Sault, you will climb the “easiest” but longest of the three ascents up Mont Ventoux. The route begins by gradually climbing through the trees to reach Le Chalet Reynard. The view then opens up and you leave the shelter of the trees for the final 6.5km past the Tom Simpson memorial to the summit of this famous climb at 1910m. After posing for the obligatory summit photo and perhaps stocking up on supplies at the numerous stalls or even an ice cream at the cafe we retrace our steps back to Sault, perhaps stopping for lunch at Chalet Reynard.

    From Sault descend to the thermal Spa town of Montbrun-Les-Bains before the final climb of the day. A cracking climb, with views back to Mont Ventoux, your legs will be grateful that the gradient never gets too steep. One you reach Col de Macuegene at 1068m you can relax in the knowledge that it’s all downhill from here back home.

    Distance 137km Climbing 2500m

    Check out this route on our Strava Page.

    Mont Ventoux – For all!!!!
    We can also arrange a day trip to Sault from where Mont Ventoux can be climbed as an out and back on the easiest of the 3 sides. We love this route and so many of our guests who thought they would never be able to climb this iconic mountain have surprised themselves by getting to the top.

    Distance 53km, Climbing 1300m

    Check out this route on our Strava Page.

    Mont Ventoux & the Gorges de La Nesque
    Bustling market towns, stunning lavender fields, breathtaking Gorges, and an iconic mountain climb, what more could you want from a ride? Starting from the market town of Sault, a short drive from Serre Des Ormes, cross the plateau before the gentle climb to the head of the Gorges de La Nesque. The spectacular viewpoint offers a perfect excuse for a break before descending down through the Gorges. After leaving the Gorges all roads lead to Mont Ventoux! Join the climb up this infamous mountain in the small village of Sainte Colombe, it is one of the toughest road climbs out there, over 20km in length with an ascent of 1639m. After climbing through the forest to Chalet Reynard you reach the famous lunar landscape and will pass the memorial to Tom Simpson on your way to the summit. All that is left is to enjoy the 27km descent back down to the village of Sault!

    This has been described by many as one of their best days on a bike so please contact us today to start planning this fantastic day trip.

    Distance 84km Climbing 1800m

    Check out this route on our Strava Page.