Riding Bikes in Valkenburg, Holland

Valkenburg

Valkenburg is a Dutch village in the Limberg province of South Holland. It is absolutely stunning and easily one of my favorite places I visited in my four-month, fourteen-country trip. The people are friendly, the countryside is unforgettably gorgeous, and the beer is cold and served with salty peanuts. Who could ask for anything more?

My friend Mireilla, who lives in The Netherlands, took me down to South Holland (and Ghent, Belgium) for a weekend while I was staying with her in June.

 

Valkenburg

Mireilla (left) and I, trying to figure out where to look into my smartphone for our selfies

 

On the morning after we stumbled onto an exquisite André Rieu concert, Mireilla and I decided to rent bikes for the day. After briefly considering biking to Germany (a possibility, but we’d have to get an earlier start), we ended up just riding around the hilly countryside of Valkenburg.

Though The Netherlands is known for being remarkably flat and therefore bicycle-friendly, this part of Holland is actually incredibly hilly. In fact, the Tour de France had a stage finish in Valkenburg in 1992 and 2006.

We biked somewhere between 20-30 miles (I can’t for the life of me remember, because we measured in meters, and now it’s been months. Let’s go with 30, because that’d be cooler.) and got real good and sweaty. We stopped for lunch and shared satay fries (fries with peanut sauce, the best thing I ate in Holland) and the hugest burrito-shaped spring roll I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Valkenburg

Valkenburg

 

 

Valkenburg

 

Valkenburg

 

 

Valkenburg

 

 

 

 

 

Valkenburg

 

Valkenburg

 

We stayed at the Hotel Lahaye, which I LOVED. It’s a family-run hotel that has been in operation for generations, and has a wonderful rustic quality. There is WiFi, but it’s a bit spotty, and though we requested a non-smoking room, you could tell guests have been smoking in those rooms for decades. But the owner was so friendly, and there’s a little bar that serves beer (with bar snacks, of course). Mireilla and I each ordered a gin and tonic, and each ice cube was placed with care by a small pair of tongs into our glasses. The hotel was just a quaint and lovely little place, and more affordable than the hotels closer in town.

Valkenburg

 

 

The room also comes with a complimentary breakfast.

Valkenburg

 

Speculoos cookie butter and chocolate sprinkles on toast. My perfect breakfast. (Note: I provided the chocolate sprinkles.)

This bike ride in Valkenburg is one of the main reasons I can’t wait to go back to The Netherlands. It’s such a stunning country with friendly people. And of course my dear friend lives there, so I imagine I’ll be back before too long.

 

Valkenburg

 

 

 

Vegan Mofo: The Bottled Aperol Spritz

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Cheers! Welcome to Friday’s installment of It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

 On the roster this week is the Aperol Spritz.

Aperol is a lovely bright red liqueur, a slightly sweeter version of bitter Campari. It still has that mouth-puckering polarizing love-it-or-hate-it bitterness of Campari, but is more palatable to some tastebuds. I love both, and one of my favorite Aperol cocktails is the Aperol Spritz.

 

The Aperol Spritz is a blend of sparkling wine, Aperol, a splash of soda water and a slice of orange. Perfectly refreshing on a summer day(, fall day, spring day, or winter day).

 

When I arrived in The Netherlands, I noticed that grocery stores carried 4-packs of readymade Aperol Spritz bottles. My lucky day. Lucky country. Whatever.

 Bites from Abroad

I sampled them at my friend Mireilla’s birthday potluck. While not as fresh and effervescent of a freshly prepared Aperol Spritz cocktail, these bottles still had that sparkly sweet/bitter taste that I love. If this were readily available in the States, I would definitely pick these up from time to time. In addition to being an easy summer sipper, they’re just so adorable.

bites from abroad

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Vegan Mofo: POPCORN ’round the world (OF COURSE)

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You know it was bound it happen. I cannot go a whole month writing about food and not include popcorn. So here it is, just in time for Thursday Mofo: Popcorn ‘round the world.

 

popcorn 'round the world

popcorn ’round the world

Luckily I discovered pretty quickly that popcorn is popular everywhere. Everywhere. I have yet to be in a country where I haven’t found popcorn for sale.  From Belgium to Budapest to Bangkok, I’ve been able to indulge in my—what do you call a minor obsession? Passion? Affinity? Extreme fondess?– good old fashioned love for popcorn.

 bites from abroad

From wasabi popcorn (totally decent and slightly addictive) to sweet and salty popcorn in-a-cup in Vietnam (perfect overnight train snack), I have been eating popcorn several times a month. Nowhere near my average of 3-4 times a week back in Portland, but not too shabby.

popcorn

 

I am actually on a nutritional yeast detox (this is the longest I’ve gone not eating nutritional yeast since eating solid foods), so even though all this popcorn has soothed my inner popcorn beast, I’m tremendously looking forward to getting home and enjoying a classic bowl of plain popcorn with coconut spray oil, nutritional yeast, and sea salt. Until then, though, I’ll continue happily munching on street ‘corn.

 

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Vegan Mofo: Thyme Chocolate Bar

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Hello and good morning! Welcome back to Monday’s Sweet Treats. Last week I shared with you the sweet and creamy peanut butter cookie milkshake from Cookies & Scream in London. This week we’re moving over the The Netherlands; to The Hague, the capital.

The Hague

The Hague

 

One of my best friends, Mireilla, was a foreign exchange student from Rotterdam to my tiny little high school in Cave Junction, Oregon back in 1997. We hit it off right away, and have kept in touch and seen each other occasionally since. This trip marked the first time I was able to visit her. She and her boyfriend hosted me for 10 days, and were the best hosts ever. Turns out things are a little different in the Netherlands; on your birthday YOU supply the cake, and when you host friends, you treat them. They were lovely wonderful hosts, and when I ventured into The Hague one day to explore, I stopped into a specialty tea shop to buy a thank you present.

 After I found some delightful tea blends, I came across a thyme, flax seed and quinoa crisp chocolate bar from the chocolate company Newtree. Sure enough, it’s vegan. There is no way I’d ever not buy a vegan chocolate bar with thyme in it. Duh.

bites from abroad

The taste is something altogether different. It takes a square or two to get used to, but then it gets seriously addictive. The crunchy quinoa and flecks of flax are a perfect balance to the herby fragrance of the thyme.  The thyme itself makes me think it’d be the perfect sweet bite after an Italian pasta dinner. Not that I gave it the chance; I basically ate it all within 2 days, furtively popping squares from my purse into my mouth for that elusive taste of sweet thyme chocolate.

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