After a couple of weeks in the Netherlands, we were ready to explore Belgium. Antwerp, or Antwerpen as the locals call it, was our first stop. We’d planned to stay there for two days but met some really nice people and stuck around for five. We ate at home most days but did manage to venture out and scope out the local vegan food scene.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian travelling in Europe, there’s a darn good chance you’ll end up having at least one meal at Maoz, the popular vegetarian falafel joint. They’ve got locations in major cities across eastern Europe, including Paris, London, Amsterdam and Barcelona. They’ve also opened a few franchises in the US and you can now find them in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Florida and New Jersey. A few years ago, we enjoyed several visits to Maoz in Paris and Barcelona and were excited to have a chance to eat there again while visiting Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Food is more than something to eat. Food is love. Food is culture. Food is life. Food is meant to be shared.
If I eat at restaurants too often, I start to feel disconnected from food. I like to make my own meals. I like watching a bag of vegetables turn into a beautiful soup or salad. I like cooking with people, and watching them cook. People who cook from the heart, without recipes and measuring cups, inspire me.
After visiting Amsterdam, we took the train to Utrecht, a nearby city packed with lots of students, bikes and cute shops. It’s basically a mini Amsterdam, without the overwhelming presence of the red light district, drugs and tourists. In Utrecht, we found another vegan squat cafe, lots of bio shops, and made friends with Miffy at the super cute Dick Bruna museum.
It’s always such a treat to visit an all vegan store. It’s not everyday us vegans have the chance to walk into a shop and turn off the part of our brain that’s usually making a guess about whether or not a product contains animal ingredients and judging if it’s worth flipping over to read the label. In a vegan store, we can shop for food without examining the fine print and get excited about spotting cute shoes without having to worry about the possibility of leather insoles. Everything is fair game. And it’s such a lovely feeling! This is why we made a special trip to Vega-Life, Amsterdam’s all vegan store.
When we arrived at the Amsterdam airport, we received a warm greeting from Harald, the talented photographer behind the camera at Vegalicious. Harald does a fantastic job capturing the beauty of his wife Chris’ unique vegan recipes, all of which are available for free on the Vegalicious blog.
We had the pleasure of staying with Chris and Harald at their home in Almere, the Netherlands. Upon introduction, they dubbed us their little test bunnies and immediately started feeding us Chris’ delicious vegan creations. Our first taste of Vegalicious talent came in the form of vegan strawberry tarts with soy yogourt and cashew cream. We enjoyed them in the garden with tea and coffee.
Coming from Canada, squatting is a new concept for me. As far as I know, it’s illegal in Canada. You can’t just find any old abandoned building, break in, change the locks, set up a table, chair and bed, and call the local authorities to notify them you’ve moved in. In Europe, it’s different. However, laws seem to be changing and squatting is becoming an endangered lifestyle in some countries.
Many squatters seem to claim large properties, with ample space for living as well as community projects. In Amsterdam, there’s a legalized squat in the former Netherlands Film Academy (OT301) building. It’s now home to a vegan cafe, music performance/rehearsal space, cinema and gallery where [sub]cultural activities take place. When we heard about it, we knew we had to visit.
I couldn’t skip breakfast if I tried. Even if I wake up late, which I seem to be making a habit of, I still manage to eat something that resembles breakfast before having lunch. To me, breakfast is the symbol of a new beginning, another chance to have a happy and healthy day. When I was in Canada, my breakfast always involved a smoothie or freshly pressed juice. Since I started traveling six months ago, I’ve encountered less than five blenders and zero juicers. Naturally, I’ve had to open up to other options. In recent weeks, I’ve had many different things for breakfast, following along with the traditions of our hosts in each city.
Before our visit to Ireland, friends and family kept insisting we rent a car and drive along the coast. We didn’t rent a car, but managed to make our way west by taking the bus and hitch hiking. We were excited to visit the Dingle Peninsula, located in County Kerry, knowing we’d be treated to some beautiful views and landscapes. We weren’t sure what to expect for vegan food options but found there were more than enough choices to keep us happy.