Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Vegan Food Swap {July 2013}

Vegan food swap

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a vegan food swap programme. This was my first month participating, so I didn't really know what to do - or what to expect.

The basic format is really simple. You're assigned two partners, one to send to, and one from whom you'll receive your package. (Of course, these could be the same, but in my case they weren't.) You exchange emails, discuss preferences, and let your sender know your address. Then send out your box, and blog about what you get back.

My receiving partner Mitsu requested primarily savoury items. I hadn't twigged that you could include homemade items (I'll know next time!) so I ended up sending quite a few ingredients, like unusual herbs and spices, because I was struggling for unusual ready-to-eat snacks. You can see what I sent her over on her blog. Although it felt like a challenge, I really enjoyed putting together a box, and I'm sure it'll get easier over time because now if I find something cute and unusual (with a long shelf life!) I can buy half a dozen for potential future swaps.

My parcel came from Mellissa Morgan, whose email signature describes her as "Chief Cupcaker" at Ms Cupcake (@mscupcakeuk). Can you imagine a better job title?

Mellissa sent me a hefty box of goodies, including two types of vegan marshmallows, cinder toffee, and peach jelly sweets. Perhaps the most unusual item in my box was a bar of "vegan jerky" - as an almost-lifelong vegetarian, I won't be able to comment on how it compares to the original, but it's a fascinating idea.

She also sent me two wonderful products from her own bakery: one nutty chocolate cupcake, and one giant sandwich cookie. The cookie sandwich consisted of two chocolate chip cookies filled with vegan buttercream, which was absolutely delicious, but so huge and sweet that I couldn't eat more than half of it at once! I was also more than happy to share the cupcake with my husband: there was as much depth of creamy ganache topping (generously studded with chopped nuts) as there was cake underneath.

I can't wait to dive in and sample all the rest. And I'm already looking forwards to next month!

Vegan food swap

Monday, 29 July 2013

Vegetarian Recipes for Intermittent Fasting Diets

Under 300 Calories
Under 500 Calories
As you might have noticed if you're a regular reader, I've been following the 5:2 intermittent fasting method for a few months now. As I've done so, I've been gathering a collection of suitable low-calorie, vegetarian and vegan recipes - one of the best ways for me to make sure I stay on track is to create interesting dishes within the low calorie restrictions.

As well as reducing calories, I've been trying to use fast days as an excuse to cut back on dairy (I eat far too much cheese!) and also on sugar, so I hope these are generally healthy recipes, and most will be vegan. I'll be adding to this list as I develop more recipes which are suitable for fast days.

A bit of background on intermittent fasting

The principle behind intermittent fasting is to restrict your calorie intake quite dramatically, but only some of the time. Common fasting patterns include:
  • 5:2
    Probably the most common variant, where you eat a normal diet five days a week, and restrict your calories to 500 per day on the other two (non-consecutive) days.
  • 4:3
    A slightly more extreme version, with four normal and three fast days.
  • Alternate day fasting
    This is getting to be pretty self-explanatory, right? Again, the daily limit is 500 calories on a fast day.
  • 16:8
    This pattern is based on hours, rather than days. Following this plan, you endeavour to do all of your eating in an eight-hour window each day.
As well as the benefits (such as weight loss) that you'd get from reducing your overall calorie intake by any other means, there's also some research to suggest that intermittent fasting might have general health benefits: possibly reducing the risk of diabetes, bringing down high blood pressure, improving cholesterol, and boosting the immune system. Admittedly, most of the studies to date have been done on animals rather than humans - but hopefully the increasing popularity of fast diets will encourage researchers to do some controlled trials in humans. Meanwhile, I'm happy to be my own personal guinea pig, since I haven't encountered any negative effects of fasting.

Most of the criticisms I’ve heard since I started following this approach have been generalised objections to "fad diets," on the grounds that "going on a diet" is never a long term solution to anything. But this isn’t supposed to be a short-term fix, so much as a long term change to one's habits - that's part of the reason I prefer to call it the 5:2 method, rather than the 5:2 diet. The whole point of intermittent fasting is that you can do it (more or less) every week; it isn't generally too hard to single out a day or two when you can restrict your calories without curtailing your social life.

Some people refer to their non-fasting days as "feast" days, but this seems something of a misnomer. To me, it feels better to stick to a normal, generally healthy diet on the other days - with some treats, of course, but feeling compelled to "feast" five days a week sounds like a recipe for over-eating!

One of the strangest effects I've noticed since I started intermittent fasting is that if I eat too much - or too richly - on one of my normal days, I'll actually want to fast the next day. That fact alone encourages me to think that this is a healthy pattern for my body.

5:2 Intermittent Fasting button5:2 Diet
Look out for this symbol on fast-day-friendly recipes around the site. The box will give you the calorie count of a recipe, and possibly some tips on how to reduce it further, if it's easy to do so.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Satay Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I have a general aversion to deep-frying food (something about spitting, boiling fat just puts me off), so I've never made spring rolls before. Being presented with a packet of rice paper spring roll wrappers, though, was just the push I needed to get on with it and pull together some Vietnamese garden rolls. These have the advantage of being wrapped in a light, translucent sheet of soft rice paper which doesn't need to be fried at all, so they're a lot easier and more fun to make - without any chance of turning the kitchen into a danger zone.

I got the wrappers in this month's Kitchen Nomad box, the inspiration for which comes from Vietnam. I loved cooking with last month's Greek box, and that was packed with mostly familiar products, so of course I was even more excited to try out the Vietnamese ingredients.

Kitchen Nomad box - Vietnam
The Vietnamese box. Not pictured: peanuts, fish sauce.

Of course, not everything in the box was new to me. I've used rice noodles (vermicelli) before, and bird's eye chillis often make their way into my cooking. But there were plenty of surprises, too: I'd never even heard of annatto seeds, and kho spice turns out to be an unusual combination of familiar spices. (There was also a bottle of fish sauce, but I'm passing that on to a friend.) And then there were the spring roll wrappers.

Apparently it's traditional to include vermicelli rice noodles in the spring rolls, but I thought their texture would be a bit too similar to the wrapper (and they don't taste of much by themselves), so I went for a filling of tofu and mixed vegetables. The resulting garden rolls were fresh and crunchy and delicious. I used cooked vegetables, but it still felt like eating a salad.

Traditionally, almost everything in Vietnam is served with fish sauce, and spring rolls are no exception; in this case, it would be as a dipping sauce, seasoned with various spices. Obviously that doesn't meet my vegetarian needs, so I knocked up a quick dipping sauce of my own. Inspired by the peanuts and chilli which came with the box, I went for a spicy, satay-style sauce which really complemented the crunchy vegetables. I had some sauce left over which I used for lunch the next day; it went quite hard in the fridge overnight, but 'melted' back to a nice consistency when returned to room temperature.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

5:2 Intermittent Fasting button5:2 Diet
Without the satay sauce, these spring rolls are well suited to the 5:2 diet. Each roll has just under 100 calories; you could use a simple soy sauce for low-calorie dipping.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
(Makes 6)

For the spring rolls:
1 large carrot
a handful of French beans
½ red pepper
½ yellow pepper
3 inches of a cucumber
4 large cabbage leaves
300g firm tofu
1tbsp sunflower oil
100g beansprouts
fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
6 rice paper wrappers
  1. Finely slice the carrots, green beans, peppers, and cucumber into thin julienne-style sticks.
  2. Cut the cabbage into approximately 3cm / 1in strips.
  3. Cut the tofu into slices (about ½cm / ¼in thick). I managed to get 12 slices from a block.
  4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
  5. Fry the tofu on both sides until slightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  6. In the remaining oil, stir fry the carrots and beans over a low heat for five minutes.
  7. Add the peppers and cabbage, and fry for another 5 minutes.
  8. Add the beansprouts and cucumber and fry for a couple of minutes more. Your goal is for the vegetables to be lightly cooked, but still retain some crunch.
  9. Remove the vegetables from the heat, and set aside to cool.
  10. Assemble the spring rolls one at a time. Begin by submerging the wrapper in a bowl of hot water, for a few seconds, until it softens up. Then flatten the wrapper on a plate, put two slices of tofu in a line across the centre, and top with vegetables (with the strips aligned parallel to the long edge of the tofu, as far as possible). Add a few leaves of coriander, then roll the wrapper tightly around the filling. The slightly gelatinous rice paper should have no trouble sticking to itself.
  11. Serve the rolls cold, with your favourite sauce.
Satay Dipping Sauce

50g creamed coconut
1tbsp tomato puree
2tbsp peanut butter
1-2tsp chilli flakes
cold water
  1. Melt the creamed coconut in the microwave.
  2. Add the peanut butter and tomato puree.
  3. Add water (a couple of tablespoons at a time) and mix to the desired consistency.
  4. Season with chilli flakes to taste.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Luxury Weekend in Carcassonne

I've wanted to go to the medieval city of Carcassonne ever since the game of the same name won the Spiel des Jahres prize in 2001. If a city has such impressive walls as to inspire a wall-building board game, that surely has to be a sight worth seeing. Plus, it's a UNESCO world heritage site, which is usually a good indicator.

I recently signed up to get TravelZoo's last minute holiday deals by email. (I do love a bargain, and there's nothing nicer than being told about cheap opportunities for travel.) One of the offers last week was a weekend break to a beautiful chateau hotel in rural France - and imagine my surprise when I clicked through and found that, as well as looking stunning, Domaine d'Auriac was just a couple of miles outside Carcassonne. Oh, and did I mention that the price includes a three-course dinner at their Michelin-starred restaurant? I could hardly believe my luck.

Then reality kicked in, and I emailed the hotel to check there would be a vegetarian menu available in the restaurant. French food isn't always the most veggie-friendly, and I would be so gutted to stay somewhere with a Michelin star only to find I couldn't eat anything. They responded the next day to say that would be fine, just to warn them in advance.

By the time I phoned up to book, the hotel was sold out of regular rooms, so we then had to make the oh-so-difficult decision of whether to pay a little more to upgrade to a superior room. Since we were already splashing out, though, it didn't take much to talk ourselves into going for it. This is going to be at the fancier end of our travel spectrum! And I don't even know if I'm more excited about the city or the hotel.


Photos of Carcassonne by Isaac Alvarez Brugada, from Flickr (licensed under Creative Commons), because I obviously don't have any of my own yet! (But watch this space....)


Monday, 22 July 2013

Sewing a Cushion Cover

While we were staying at Boscrowan Farm last month, Elizabeth offered to give me a little sewing tuition in her soft furnishings workshop. (And oh, what a workshop. I have serious workshop-envy after seeing this space, it makes my dining table feel quite inadequate.)

I have a couple of cushions with old covers that no longer match our decor, so I took one of those along with me for a refresh. The first task was to hunt out some suitable fabric from Elizabeth's extensive stash. After almost being tempted by a very bold passion flower design, I eventually settled on a more moderate cream and blue, with cream piping, to complement our sofa and carpet.

While I've done a bit of sewing, I've never done piping, so I was fascinated to learn how that worked. I've seen ready-made piping on reels in upholstery shops, but I hadn't realised that you could also just make piping in any fabric of your choice by wrapping plain piping cord. You just have to cut the fabric on the diagonal, and then sew the sections together to make a long enough strip.

Elizabeth has some serious, industrial sewing machines - and a heavy-duty overlocker that I wasn't brave enough to use on my project! Anything that cuts fabric at the speed of a sewing machine is bound to be a little bit daunting, but this one also looked like it could have your finger off if you weren't careful.

This was a great session, and an unexpected bonus for our trip. I learnt a lot, and ended up with a nicely finished little cushion cover.

Boscrowan Farm - Cornwall 2013
Cutting strips for piping.

Boscrowan Farm - Cornwall 2013
Elizabeth demonstrates how to make piping.

Boscrowan Farm - Cornwall 2013
Intense concentration as I make my first attempt with the piping foot.

Boscrowan Farm - Cornwall 2013
Piping close-up.

Boscrowan Farm - Cornwall 2013
Corners are particularly tricky.

Boscrowan Farm - Cornwall 2013
The piping is in place.

Boscrowan Farm - Cornwall 2013
Adding the second side.

Sewing - Cushion
The finished cushion, at home.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Red & White Quinoa Bowl (300 calories)


Did you know there was more than one kind of quinoa? I was surprised to discover that as well as the familiar white kind, there are also red and black varieties. As well as adding a bit of extra colour, the taste and texture of the different kinds are subtly different - they're a bit more crunchy. For this dish, I mixed red and white.

Three Types of Quinoa

I wanted to make something that was suitable for a 5:2 fast day, and a 50g helping of quinoa is already a couple of hundred calories. Fortunately you can fit a lot of vegetables into a very small amount of calories.

I wanted to keep it simple so I just used mushrooms and peppers, to stick with the red-and-white theme, but you could choose any combination of veggies. In hindsight, think asparagus would work really well with the lemony dressing.

5:2 Intermittent Fasting button5:2 Diet
This dish has approximately 300 calories per portion. Swapping the mushrooms and peppers for other vegetables (especially green veg) won't have a huge impact on the calorie count.


Red & White Quinoa Recipe
Serves 2

40g red quinoa
60g white quinoa
200g mushrooms
2 red pointed peppers (200g)
1tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
  1. Cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the packet (the red may take a couple of minutes longer than the white - mine did).
  2. Chop peppers into large chunks and quarter the mushrooms.
  3. Mix the lemon juice and mustard together.
  4. Add the vegetables and the lemon/mustard to a frying pan, and saute over a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened.
  5. Add the quinoa to the pan with the vegetables, and toss through to coat in the lemon dressing.

Warm Halloumi Salad with Lime

Warm halloumi salad

It's been rather hot in England. We're accustomed to spending our summers complaining about intermittent rain, so this year, everyone complaining about a sudden heatwave has been something of a shock to the system. (And it really was sudden: one day we were wondering why we still needed the heating on in July, and the next we were watching the shops sell out of paddling pools and air-conditioning units.)

In weather like this, the order of the day is to eat outside with a huge plate of fresh salad and a chilled glass of wine. Under the parasol, of course... we wouldn't want to risk exposing our delicate British skin to too much actual sunshine.

This is a new salad for me, inspired by a friend's description of a dish she'd recently enjoyed. I had to reconstruct a plausible recipe, and I made a few tweaks to suit the ingredients I had to hand, but this is going straight onto my list of all-time favourite salads. The just-slightly-warm vegetables, the tangy halloumi, and the bright citrus dressing all combine to something quite wonderful.

I was recently sent some Domaine des Ratelles Muscadet wine to sample, and its crisp dry taste was perfect for summer drinking. The sharp flavours of the wine were nicely complimented by the acidity of the lime dressing and the peppery watercress and rocket. Along with warm bread rolls straight from the oven, this was a perfect summer lunch. The leftovers were also fantastic to eat cold, the next day.

5:2 Intermittent Fasting button5:2 Diet
Served without the bread (or wine!) this salad comes in at about 400 calories per person. You can cut it down further, to about 320, by using low-fat halloumi.

Warm halloumi salad

Warm Halloumi Salad Recipe
Quantities per person:

85g halloumi
juice of ½ lime
1tbsp olive oil
40g fine green beans
40g asparagus spears
25g edamame beans
40g mixed salad leaves (I used rocket, baby spinach, and watercress)
a few stalks of coriander
plus an extra wedge of lime to serve
  1. Cut the halloumi into large cubes (about 1 inch) and marinade in a mixture of lime juice and olive oil.
  2. When you're ready to eat, heat up a frying pan and add the halloumi. You can use quite a high heat to sear the cheese, just keep turning it occasionally. It will look like nothing is happening, for ages, and then you'll suddenly get the gorgeous crispy crust.
  3. Steam the green beans for a couple of minutes, add the asparagus, steam for a further 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the edamame beans to the steamer, and steam for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, arrange the salad leaves in a large bowl or medium plate, and sprinkle with a generous helping of coriander.
  6. Add the freshly-cooked vegetables from the steamer, then top with the fried halloumi.
  7. Serve with a wedge of lime, fresh baked bread, and a glass of dry white wine.
The theme for this month's No Croutons Required soup & salad challenge is legumes, so I'm offering this salad as my entry for this month.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Higgidy Pies Review

When Higgidy got in touch to talk about their products, and asked whether I'd like to review their vegetarian range, I was more than happy to agree. I've had their quiches before, but I was especially interested in trying some of the pies, because (as I've mentioned before) it can be hard to find decent veggie pies.

Unfortunately, although the Higgidy website lists quite a variety of vegetarian pies, I really struggled to track these down in local shops. The quiches are fairly ubiquitous, but the pies were elusive. I was determined to track some down, though, and eventually I found two varieties in Waitrose: the spinach & feta pie, and the butternut squash pie from the "little" range (the same diameter, but just over half the height).

Higgidy Pies
Spinach, feta & toasted pine nut pie

Higgidy Pies
Little butternut squash & red pepper pie

Little and regular sized alike, these are individual portions of personal pie. Ideal if you and your family want to choose different flavours, but on the down-side, they do pack a punch to the wallet as well as to the tastebuds. (The quiches, which easily feed two or three, don't cost very much more.) We enjoyed our pies for lunch, with jacket baked potatoes and vegetables, thus transforming them into part of a hearty meal.

The butternut squash pie, with its star-shaped lid, was packed with chunks of tender squash, and had a nice balance of spices. I really loved the caraway pastry; that's definitely an idea I'll be borrowing for my own baking.

The spinach and feta was an open-topped pie topped with red peppers and a sprinkling of pine nuts. The filling was light and creamy, and very moreish, and the pine nuts added a bit of texture.

In both cases, it was easy to see the distinct ingredients, and clear that the pies were made from real, fresh food. They're also entirely hand made, which is unusual these days. I was very impressed, and would definitely think of buying these again for a treat (assuming I can find them!).

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Chocolate Marmalade Cheesecake

Chocolate Marmalade Cheesecake

The inspiration for this dish came while I was eating Jaffa Cakes and, for some reason, talking about cheesecake with friends (this is perhaps more common than you might imagine). Chocolate orange just felt like a natural cheesecake flavour.

I used homemade marmalade, which has quite a strong, bitter flavour. Commercially produced marmalade tends to be a lot sweeter, which I think would be a bit sickly, so I'd recommend using homemade if you can. Obviously you don't have to make it yourself - but hopefully you can find a small local producer who uses less sugar than the big manufacturers.

Even with a good, bitter marmalade, and using dark chocolate, this is still an incredibly rich dessert. I could only eat a small slice.

Chocolate Marmalade Cheesecake

Chocolate Marmalade Cheesecake Recipe
Serves 8-10

150g digestive biscuits
60g butter
200g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
170ml double cream
300g cream cheese
50g icing sugar
2tbsp marmalade
  1. Use greaseproof paper to line the base of a 6in (16cm) loose-bottomed cake tin.
  2. Crush the biscuits (I use the end of a rolling pin), melt the butter, and stir through the crumbs until thoroughly combined. Press this mixture into the base of the cake tin, and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Melt the chocolate, and use a small amount to draw a "squiggle" on parchment paper for decoration. Keep warm to maintain the liquid temperature.
  4. Whip the cream until stiff.
  5. Add the cream cheese and icing sugar to the cream, and start to whisk in the melted chocolate, a little at a time.
  6. Gently stir through the marmalade.
  7. Spoon the cream cheese mixture onto the biscuit base, and smoothe the top with a spatula.
  8. Refrigerate before serving, for at least 2-3 hours (preferably overnight).
Note: to make a larger cheesecake, double the quantities and use a 9in / 23cm tin.

Blackberry jamAre you interested in learning to make your own jam? Or just looking for more yummy recipes with jam as an ingredient? Click here for jam-making tips and a collection of related recipes.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas

Every so often, we talk about going to Vegas. It was Andy who put the idea into my head, actually. I'm not a gambler (I'll play cards for pennies, literally, but no more), so it hadn't really occurred to me that it might be fun to visit the casino capital of the world.

There are loads of obvious attractions in the general area: the Grand Canyon, for instance, is only a few hours' drive away. That's practically next door, on an American scale. Arches National Park, in Utah, is about twice as far - and is very close to the top of my dream travel list. The Mojave desert and even the Mexican border are also near by... this is definitely top-quality road trip territory.

But Las Vegas itself? I hadn't even thought of it, until Andy pointed out that the hotels, as well as the obvious casinos, also have some amazing shows and concerts, and they're usually relatively cheap. For example, the Aria hotel actually has its own Cirque du Soleil show.

This came as a surprise to me, because although I've seen Cirque du Soleil a couple of times and consider myself a fan of their work, I hadn't realised that there was more than one troupe out and about at any given time. Did you know? According to their site, they currently have nineteen shows on, including eight in Las Vegas.

I love the mix of acrobatics and dance, beautifully choreographed into a dramatic spectacle. Based on the preview video and photos, Zarkana looks dark and atmospheric, as well as being vastly ambitious in scale. The video drew me right in. Even the size of the stage is impressive - but that's Vegas for you, I guess.

We've been to London just for the theatre before now... going to Vegas for a show would be a bit further (and I'd definitely want to combine it with that road trip), but it's certainly tempting.

If you love Cirque du Soleil as much as I do, by the way, you might enjoy their YouTube channel, which has previews for all their shows.

Monday, 15 July 2013

3 Fruity Whisky Cocktails for Summer

Whisky Cocktails with Glenfiddich

Andy's usual tipple is whisky & lemonade, so when I saw that the Collective Bias Social Fabric® team was looking for someone to create some Glenfiddich cocktails as part of a sponsored shop, it sounded like a great opportunity to try and broaden his horizons a little - while sticking with a whisky base. For my part, I usually only drink whisky by itself or with ice, and would generally pick a cocktail based on something like rum or brandy - so this was going to be an experiment for both of us.

Because I was planning to dilute it, it only made sense to buy the cheapest whisky in the Glenfiddich range, the 12 year old single malt. Conveniently this is also the one that happens to be in stock in pretty much every supermarket I ever visit. This time we stocked up in Waitrose, not just with the whisky, but with an assortment of mixers and snacks.

Waitrose shopping trip - Glenfiddich

Once we'd grabbed our shopping, we settled down for a relaxing afternoon tea in the Waitrose cafe (a spot we frequent rather more often now that they've started giving out free tea and coffee). We had hoped they'd have soup on for lunch, but we were a bit late after we'd finished the shopping so they'd run out of most of their food offerings - but being forced to eat scones is the kind of hardship I can live with. The heat outside was getting rather wearing, so it was nice to sit in an air conditioned space for a while.

Waitrose shopping trip - cream tea

Next stop: home, to experiment.

I don't have a huge amount of experience in creating cocktails, but I knew that I wanted to create something fairly sweet and fruity to maximise the chance of Andy enjoying it. He's got a very sweet tooth, so my shopping involved quite a few fizzy drinks as mixers, as well as some fresh fruit.

Whisky Cocktails

A little internet research on whisky cocktails turned up very little in the light-and-fruity vein, but two classics stood out: the highball (whisky and ginger ale), and the whisky sour (with lime and sugar syrup).

I'm personally of the opinion that lime and ginger is a wonderful flavour combination, and so the idea of a sour highball was born. This was my personal favourite of the three cocktails I made, and it's very simple: one shot of whisky, topped up with ginger ale, and finished with a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Whisky Cocktails with Glenfiddich

I'd bought some fresh cherries (they were half price - how could I resist?) and my next challenge was to work out how to incorporate them into a drink. In the end, I chopped the cherries in half, took the stones out, and mashed them up with the whisky, then added a small measure of orange juice and a dash of lemon. Whisky seems to go well with all manner of citrus, and it was nice to have the juicy (and whisky-infused) cherries at the bottom of the glass.

But Andy's favourite drink was my third attempt, a straightforward substitution of pink grapefruit soda for his usual lemonade mixer. This was way too sweet for me, but that just proves how different our tastes are.

We enjoyed our afternoon under the parasol in the garden, trying to keep out of the harsh sun of the unexpected heatwave. I think my brief foray into cocktail-mixing might have persuaded Andy that there's some merit in trying a wider variety of drinks, and for me, it was fun to experiment with whisky mixers.

Whisky Cocktails

Friday, 12 July 2013

Chysauster, An Ancient Cornish Village

Chysauster Village - Cornwall 2013

Near Penzance in Cornwall, the remains of an ancient village are nestled on a hillside. Dating from the Iron Age, a surprising amount of these houses remain in tact - they may not have roofs, but from the what remains of the walls it's easy to see the boundaries of buildings and rooms. Several houses are arranged along a little street, which gives an idea of what village life might have been like in these days.

The views from Chysauster are amazing, too, as it looks out with sweeping views over open Cornish countryside.

Our only disappointment was that the fogou (an underground passage) was closed for safety reasons. I hope they'll fix up any problems and make it accessible again in future, because this is another really unusual feature of the site.

Chysauster Village - Cornwall 2013

Chysauster Village - Cornwall 2013

Chysauster Village - Cornwall 2013

Chysauster Village - Cornwall 2013

Chysauster Village - Cornwall 2013

Chysauster Village - Cornwall 2013

Chysauster Village - Cornwall 2013

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Gastown, Vancouver

From its steam-powered clock (which got a whole post of its own because, you know, steam powered clock!) to its industrial, iron-clad buildings, Gastown is one of Vancouver's more distinctive neighbourhoods. If you're into shopping, there were lots of quirky and interesting local shops, but for us the charm was more about wandering the (often cobbled) streets and admiring the unusual architecture.





At night, in the mist, walking through Gastown feels even more like stepping into a Victorian city (occasional neon lights notwithstanding).


Gastown lamp at night

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