Riding, walking and eating with family (Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands)

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It’ll be my grandmother’s birthday in a few days time but we’ll be in Poland already. Yesterday Paul and I stopped at this absolutely gorgeous shop called Piggys, which is just down the road from my grandmother’s house. While there, we found pretty cake mixes in jars, fancy herbal teas and beautifully wrapped chocolate. So today we started our day with a little private birthday party for my grandmother. We baked the cake in a cute heart shaped pan before eating and drinking the goodies. It’s quite special to be 36 years old and still able to celebrate your grandmother’s birthday.

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After the party Paul and I set off on the borrowed bikes to ride to my uncle and aunt’s house in a nearby village. Paul is doing well on the bike and soon I will need to train harder to keep up with him. Interestingly, it’s quite warm riding and soon we are both stripped down to long-sleeved t-shirts despite what would be considered a freezing cold day back home (it’s about 10’C). The landscape rolls by and we take in the contrasts between brown brick villages and flat green farmlands.

My uncle and aunt are active people who love the outdoors. I get to ride my uncle’s ebike, which is quite a treat because he’s quite handy with mechanical and electrical things. Before I know it I’m in top gear and flying along at 40kph without needing to put in much effort and without a hill or tailwind. I never quite understood the lure of ebikes until now. While I won’t be switching my tourer or fat bike for one yet, I can see the benefit of this style of riding. See, you can still get exercise because you still need to pedal but it extends the joy a person can have on a bike. Particularly for someone who lacks fitness or physical ability (due to age, infirmity or physical stature) to keep up with faster cycling friends.

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After my spin around the block on the ebike we head out for an evening walk through the woods to the Bokker Rijder restaurant. The walk is magnificent. The Dtuch woods are beautiful and alive, even in the winter. It’s silent but for our voices and footfalls but you can feel that under the fallen leaves there is life regenerating and waiting to come out in the spring.

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These mushrooms are proof of that.

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The walk to dinner takes a little over an hour with a stop at a big lookout. We eat pea soup, a popular Dutch dish. And then we walk home again through the same woods. It’s dark and muddy so at times we need to use our phone cameras. It’s also drizzling with rain and my jacket isn’t great in these conditions being goose down. But it’s also invigorating to be out walking in the woods at night as though it’ just normal. This is why the Dutch don’t have the obesity problem we have in Australia: they walk and cycle everywhere rather than relying solely on their cars. How many Australians (or Americans or Brits for that matter) would walk an hour through the woods to eat dinner and then walk home again? It’s not a criticism but a total lifestyle difference. One in which places are closer together and where active transport is considered normal not an oddity. That said, our distances are vast so it’s not always practical to cycle or walk to work or the shops, our weather hot and humid so it’s not always nice to arrive at a friend’s house hot and sweaty, and our urban design is focused on cars so you are often abused by motorists if you do overcome the first two obstacles to get on your bike. Interesting cultural differences.

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7 thoughts on “Riding, walking and eating with family (Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands)

  1. Hello Andrew
    You don’t know me, but I’m following your blog ever since you were a dedicated follower of Matthew, a friend who is cycling from Holland to Australia.
    I really like your blog. Especially your entries on Holland, as I live in Holland. It is really nice (and funny) to read what you as a ‘tourist’ find noteworthy about our country.
    I thougt it was a bit of a pity that your entries were delayed, as I would have loved to give you some tips of Amsterdam en other places in Holland to visit 🙂
    The way you descibed Korea and Japan really made me want to go there too by bike.
    Curious about your next trips!

    • Hi Judith. Yes, I love Matthew’s blog. It’s funny because around the same time he left Eindhoven for Australia, I was planning to ride from Australia to Eindhoven only to get side tracked with this different style of travel.

      Our time in Holland was short and most of it focused on seeing my family. I was born in Brabant but have lived in Australia since January 1982 when I was 2.5 years old. We will be back in Holland for a few days from 20-24 January. First we’re picking up my wheelchair bike and visiting my grandmother for an hour or so before we drive to Delft where we will stay until Paul goes home and I head for Spain on 24 January from Schiphol. We’ll be checking out Delft and the Kinderdijk. Oh and eating puntzak friet. Haha.

      South Korea is absolutely amazing. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Also, Hungary is a surprisingly fantastic country to cycle tour. I would stay off the Euro Velo and explore the small roads.

      • That is a real coincidence. I happen to live in Delft. Let me know if you need some directions for good restaurants or nice places to visit (the Markthal in Rotterdam is a mustsee now!)

      • Oh wow. Small world. The couple who own our favourite cafe near our home are also from Delft (well he is). His family owned the old cheese shop that is now a pizza shop in the maarktplaats in Delft. My cousin mentioned the Markthal in Rotterdam so we definitely plan a visit there.

        What are the must sees you recommend for a short stay in Delft?

  2. If the weather is nice it is a good idea to climb the tower of the Nieuwe kerk. The view of the old town is really nice. Of course a walk in the old part of town is nice too. Get a tour from the tourist office. Always good. Museums in Delft are small. The Prinsenhof is nice, but not a must see in my opinion. If you like pottery there is a pottery factory a 15 min walk south of the old town. Nice to have coffee is Kek on the Voldersgracht. Or Leonidas on the Choorstraat. Nice Italian sandwiches at Il Tartufo, a bit north from te Choorstraat. A maatjesharing (salted herring) at the Visbanken… There is plenty to see in Delft.

    If you like museums like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Mauritshuis is the nicest in the neighborhood. Only 20 minutes by train (very convenient). The girl with the pearl Earring is there.

    Let me know if you need more details or more recommendations. Markthal is near station Blaak, also very easy by train from Delft.

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