A WARM Dutch Welcome

We made it!!!  And what a welcome we had!!!  A lovely 27C on a bluebird sunny day.

After a small adventure in Iceland…be warned….it seems like a very large airport for such a small country!  And after landing we had to go through a security search????  Then our plane was delayed about 20 minutes…in any case, we never made it outside, except to board the plane…and it was COLD!

So not having slept on the previous flight due to the window scenery of  so many lakes of NWT  and the man in the full moon over Hudsons Bay….the glaciers floating below by Greenland….so interesting.

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Our arrival in Amsterdam was unbelievably easy.  If you have nothing to declare, you walk right in.  Just plug your VISA card into the train ticket machine and pick your destination, tickets pop out (don’t forget to validate them at the post before going to the platform) and off you go….our host was waiting for us when we arrived in Purmerend Overwhere Station just 30 minutes later.

Here are some pics of our digs….a 5 minute walk from the train station or a 15 minute walk to the Koemaket (Cowmarket in English) which is the main square.

Front entrance
Front entrance
Kitchen (complete with dishwasher)
Kitchen (complete with dishwasher)
Living room
Living room
Back garden
Back garden
View from top (3rd) floor loft.
View from top (3rd) floor loft.

An arrangement of fresh roses on the table, cold beer and mineral water in the fridge, fresh fruit on the counter, coffee in the cupboard….

There is a very good grocery store only 5 minute walk away where we went to get a few things for dinner, breakfast and lunch.  Oh, yes, the Paleo eating has been going good so far, as we ate mostly the food I brought along in my carry on bag (  boiled eggs, cheese, veggies, Paleo Muffins and crackers.) My 20% I used in Edmonton where we had a very delicious chicken shawarma with lettuce, tomato, onion and garlic sauce.  The ‘Albert Hein’ grocery store carries all kinds of organic food, seeds, nuts, and, yes, the ever so popular Pindenkraas!  There are quite few Turkish grocery stores where you also find a huge variety of olives marinated in fresh herbs, spices, peppers, etc.  Today I learned the Dutch word for sauerkraut…zuurcool.

We went for a stroll down to the Koemarket and wow! was it lively.  There are lots of restaurants/bars with tables outside…all very busy on a Sunday night.

Just after it got dark, the storm moved in.  Sheet lightening and rolls of thunder that were the longest and loudest I have ever experienced.  And they continued on and off through most of the night….along with a good rain storm.

Where the heck is Purmerend?
Where the heck is Purmerend?
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Ever been to Edmonton?

First impressions….FLAT and spread out, lots of construction sites, lovely green river valley.

Wandering around downtown in the “Arts” district on a Friday night….there were very few people.  Nothing like Vancouver, Victoria or Seattle.  No buskers or street side vendors.  So we ended up back in our hotel room watching the football game and called it an early night.  (Edmonton beat the Argos!  Boohoo!)

Alberta Art Gallery
Alberta Art Gallery

In the morning after coffee on the patio overlooking the river, we rented bicycles down by the river and went for a beautiful bike ride through parks and green spaces for a couple of hours, stopping for a picnic along the way.

North Saskatchewan River
North Saskatchewan River
An absolutely gorgeous day!
An absolutely gorgeous day!

now it’s off to the airport for the next leg….to Rekjavik, Iceland!

Escaping The Farm!

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Our last day at home for the next three months was a bit hectic, but having a list of all the last minute ‘things to do’ around the property which we have developed over the years really helps.  Stuff like draining water lines to garden/greenhouse, pond lights off, water pump and hot water tanks off.  We also leave a radio on (CBC, of course), and a few lights.  Most of the garden was harvested and covered for the winter….just a few Brussels sprouts and kale plants which may or may not survive the ‘slug season’  through to December.  We had to pick all the apples, pears and plums (and wow, there were a lot this year!).  We saw a Mama Bear and 2 Cubs in the neighborhood yesterday.  The refrigerator is absolutely ‘chock-a-block’ full of pears as I read online this was the best way to keep them…we’ll see how that works!  Unfortunately, this was the first year (after 20 years!) that our walnut tree finally produced, but it is way too early to harvest so we have left them for the lucky squirrels.

Saying good bye to my Kitty is always tough, she seems to sense our going away.  However, thanks to our good neighbors and friends, I know she will be well cared for!

Queen of the Castle!
Queen of the Castle!

I suppose by now you have figured out that my life revolves around food!  Yes, I had packed a lovely little kit of paleo friendly snacks (hard boiled eggs, organic cheddar, some tapenade, peanut butter) and…..there it is….still sitting in the one little corner of the fridge that was left after the pears went in.  Luckily, I had a packed some of my homemade seed crackers, nuts and muffin mix in my carry-on bag and will pick up more cheese and eggs in Comox.  In any case, I certainly had enough to carry when walking on the ferry!  As a matter of fact, I re-evaluated some of the clothing I had brought along and will be ditching a few items at Mark’s moms place.

So,all in all, it was a fairly organized exit and a lovely cruise on the ferry to begin the first leg of our 4 day journey.

A home away from home.

In the last post, I mentioned a few advantages of staying in homes or apartments when travelling.  Well here are a few more…..

  1.  In the long run, it can work out to be much less expensive than hotels, pensions, and B&B’s just by virtue of the fact that you do not have to pay for restaurant meals.  Sure, you are still able to eat out and  enjoy the cafes in the town squares occasionally, especially if you see a favourite type of restaurant (ours is Morroccan!) and of course you’ll want to experience some of the local cuisine.  But for me, cooking with fresh local ingredients is part of the journey…you will never know what you might find at the market.  And it’s great to be able to make delicious picnics to enjoy along the riverbank or trail.  So bottom line…what is the cost?  On average, you would be able to find a pretty decent vacation rental in the off season ( NOT in July or August when most Europeans have their summer holidays) for anywhere from 270 to 500€ per week.  Now those would be in smaller towns in the countryside.  When you talk about Paris or Amsterdam or any major city you would probably be looking at closer to 600 € and up per week.   Ha!  But check out the prices of hotels in those cities and you would be hard pressed to find anything acceptable for less than 150€/ night.  Believe me I have looked!

2.   Most of the homes have an Internet connection…some even computers for your use!  Kitchens vary, but many have all the equipment you would need to feed a group of 4 or more, some….dishwashers and it is common to find a washing machine.  Clothes driers are a rarity in Europe, but everyone has a clothesline of some description.   The best deal is if there are bicycles included.  Bikes are pretty expensive to rent in Europe, count on at least 10 -13€/day (each)  sometimes there is a discount if you rent for a week, so when there’s 2 of you it can add up.  Compare that to renting a car which averages about the same per day, but it carries both of you at the same time!  Besides, bicycles are truly the best way to explore and see Europe.  In any case, there are very detailed listings for every rental unit so you can be picky in looking for one that has everything you want.

3.  You get to stay in some very cool places.  Here is one that can only be described as ‘funky’

The 'shepherd's cottage' in Uzes, (Provence) France.
The ‘shepherd’s cottage’ in Uzes, (Provence) France.

So here is a list of a few of the agencies that I have used to find accommodation, check them out for yourself….

VRBO, Homeaway, AlwaysOnVacation, Flipkey, TripAdvisor, Owner Direct, AirBNB ( sorry, not one I use as I find the site is not detailed enough compared to the others and not as user friendly).

Paleo Survival Strategies

For those of you out there that are not aware, Mark and I have been living “Paleo-style” for almost 2 years now.  Translated, this simply means we eat lots of veggies, fruit, meat (preferably grass-fed), eggs, seafood, nuts and seeds, dairy(again, organic, grass-fed, cow or goat), fermented foods (esp. sauerkraut) and high quality fats/oils ( esp. virgin coconut oil and olive oil).  That pretty well sums up the diet….no sugar, grains or processed foods(a limited amount of legumes).   Personally, with my love of food, including growing it, it has been an exciting learning experience.  I have discovered that there are many people out there enjoying the benefits of  this way of healthy eating (for me, I certainly don’t miss 30 years of annoying eczema which has completely cleared up) so there are plenty of supportive and informative web sites(send me an e-mail if you are interested).  Studying and researching the science behind the gut microbiome has become a passion ( and the skin and mouth microbiomes, too).   Food is our fuel and our medicine…the basis for an active lifestyle!

Making sauerkraut with my red cabbage...48 quarts!!!!
Making sauerkraut with my red cabbage…48 quarts!!!!

Naturally, I am curious as to how we will survive in Europe with all those tempting crispy croissants, crusty baguettes and deep dark rye bread.  To be honest, I think I will have to fall back on the 80/20 rule.  That is, if I can eat 80% Paleo (as above) I won’t sweat the 20%.  Basically, I will follow what my gut tells me!  And I do know from our previous trips, that there are plenty of fresh veggies, fruit, nuts, eggs, fabulous cheeses and a variety of yummy OLIVES!  All available at local outdoor markets on, at least, a weekly basis.

The other key factor in this equation, is the fact that for most of our trip we will be renting self contained apartments or houses for anywhere from a few days to a week or longer.  We did this when we went to France  2 years ago and discovered it was a great way to experience the culture and the communities and the culinary delights.  In a farmhouse in the Midi Pyrennees, the bakery truck came by every second morning at 8 am, with fresh baked croissants and baguettes! (Here we go with the 20% rule).  All the neighbors would gather around and chat and I got to practice my French! Ha!  The produce in the markets was incredible.  The olive stalls were endless.  I even bought  ‘un lapin’ in the butcher store and made a delicious “cassoulet”.  Over 7 weeks, we only ate in restaurants a handful of times.

Here we are celebrating Mark's Birthday with a " Raclette Party" in a lovely house near the Dordogne River.
Here we are celebrating Mark’s Birthday with a ” Raclette Party” in a lovely house near the Dordogne River.

So I will keep you posted on all things edible….oh yes, I shouldn’t forget about one of our staples (which, strictly speaking is NOT Paleo) PEANUT BUTTER ( ie, the pure unadulterated Adams kind).  Apparently is available in Europe according to some bloggers but of varying quality?  I would also be quite happy with almond butter, but not sure of its availability.

Well, time to get back to my “to do” list for the day…only 4 more “sleeps”!!!!!!!

Happy Feet!

Gloves for the feet?
Gloves for the feet?

No one really thinks about their feet much, well, except when you have shoes that don’t fit and your feet hurt!  To my surprise, feet have more muscles than I ever imagined:

The foot and ankle contain: 26 bones (One-quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet.); 33 joints; more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments (Tendons are fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones and ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones.)

Most shoes make our foot muscles lazy….we have coddled them our whole life!  I have been “barefoot ing” around our property since April and really loving it( aside from the one time I inadvertently stepped on a bee….boy, that really hurt….foot swelled up to the size of a football!)

What does all this have to do with my upcoming adventure?  Well I have been experimenting with some new shoes which are actually more like gloves, since I don’t want to risk injury to my bare (not!) feet while hiking or even just strolling down the streets of Amsterdam.  These shoes are super light with Vibram soles ( they are actually made by Vibram)….aha, so super easy to pack into the ever expanding backpack!  Wearing these shoes definitely takes some adjustment time(putting them on is also a challenge….directions inside the box!)…there is even a warning on the box to start out slowly, up to 2 hours the first day gradually increasing the time over a 2 week period.  They also give suggested foot strengthening exercises on their website!  Wow…more science!

Needless to say, I’m hooked…my 3rd pair arrived today in the mail.  These are the fleece lined, waterproof variety and very sturdy!

I am thinking I will be able to take ALL 3 pairs to Europe!!!!!image

The Challenge

THE BEST BAG EVER!

Converts to a backpack.
Converts to a backpack.

THE BEST BAG EVER!

Packing LIGHT!!!!

Soooo, I have had my favourite old MEC convertible backpack/carry (circa  1986) all fixed by the local cobbler(does anyone use that term anymore?) The main zipper had been blown apart just one too may times….I’ll never forget my bag appearing on an airport luggage carousel (somewhere on a Caribbean Island) all tied up with bits of string…all my clothes bursting out along the edges….I was amazed there was nothing missing(well if there was, I didn’t miss it!  Hmmm, maybe there’s a lesson there?)   So with a brand new heavy duty zipper installed, I have taken the challenge of packing for a 3 month trip, encompassing all kinds of weather (I am hoping we don’t get snowed upon!), and including bicycle specific clothing and keeping it all under 20 lbs. (9.07 kg).  Oh yes, and my panniers, one of which I have attached a strap to so I can use it as a carry on bag, of course, are not waterproof…..so everything inside the bag is packed in zip lock freezer bags with the hope that this will keep my underwear dry!  I am thinking I should also take a giant heavy duty green garbage bag for over the top?  Although on second thought, if we do run into torrential rains, apparently, we can always hop on a train with our bikes….ahhhh, a cushy seat….could become a trend?

A pannier inside the bag.
A pannier inside the bag.

In preparation for this challenge, I have been reading “packing list” blogs and watching YouTube videos of all kinds of world travellers’ tips and lists and, yes, there is even an App for that!  Who new there was a science behind it all?

Will it all fit??? And still no shoes?
Will it all fit???
And still no shoes?