Exploring the Moselle Germany – hiking, biking, and wine

After spending a few days in Munich and Stuttgart the country was a welcome change of pace.  Munich is a great city to visit. Its historical sights and Porsche Factory tour in Stuttgart were highlights, but we did not start to unwind and hit full vacation-mode until we arrived in Piesport.  The German countryside is beautiful: lush green farm land, rolling hills, canola fields in bloom, winding rivers, and small towns with quaint churches litter the hillside.  We came to the Moselle in the hopes of rejuvenating in a peaceful environment while hiking, biking, and of course, tasting all the local wines!  We were not disappointed.

Piesport is a small and very quiet town located on the Moselle in between Trier and Bernkastel-Kues.  It is approximately a 5 hour drive from Munich.  The entire area is beautiful. We chose Piesport because we found an Airbnb we liked there, but all of the towns are equally picturesque.  There is an abundance of biking and hiking trails in the area. The challenge for us was picking which trails to cover when we only had a couple days.  

View of Piesport from the vineyards on the hillside
View of Mosselle countryside

Biking:

Bike path along the Moselle

I wanted to see Bernkastel-Kues as it was recommended by a friend. On our first day we rented bikes from Rad Tour Mosel – http://radtourmosel.com/  (€10 per bike) and set off on the 19km ride from Piesport to Bernkastel.  There are bike paths along both sides of the Moselle that are very well marked, the north-side requires that you ride on the road for part of the way which was a little scary (European roads are very narrow).  It took us about 1.5 hours each way.  The path goes along the river, past vineyards and open fields, and through little towns. 

Bernkastel-Kues was bustling with activity.  It was surprising given how quiet all the surrounding towns were; there were tourists everywhere!  That being said, it also had much more to offer; hotels, restaurants, and shops.  We did not go up to the castle, but we had a nice lunch overlooking the river and the castle on the hillside and strolled through town afterwards. 

Hiking:

Moselsteig Seitensprung Graf Georg Johannes Weg

Choosing a hiking trail was even more of a challenge. I ultimately left it up to Bradley to decide based on our criteria – intermediate to difficult trail, at least 3 hours, and some sights along the way.  The Moselsteig trail runs along the Moselle River for 365 kilometers and you can hike from town to town  [http://entest.moselsteig.de/the-moselsteig-trail-legs/].  We wanted a loop so opted for one of the “side trails and dream paths” – Moselsteig Seitensprung Graf Georg Johannes Weg [http://entest.moselsteig.de/moselsteig-side-trails-dream-paths/tour/moselsteig-seitensprung-graf-georg-johannes/alpstein.html].  This trail is medium difficultly, 14km, 600m elevation, and is estimated to take 5 hours.  It was one of the best hikes I have ever done.

The end of the trail, heading back into town

You start and end in the town Veldenz.  We did not think it would take us the full 5 hours as I tend to keep the pace up while Bradley grumbles behind me ;).  But this trail was so beautiful that we were constantly stopping to take in the scenery and snap photos.  The trail was wide, clear, and very well marked. There were numerous benches, viewpoints, and picnic tables along the trail. 

The trail takes you through a bit of everything: dense forests, wide open fields, beautiful viewpoints overlooking the countryside and the historic castle Schloss Veldenz, and flowing streams, or babbling brooks as Bradley describes them.  The trail takes you around Schloss Veldenz, which you can visit at certain times.  The trail was well shaded by trees but plenty of sunlight danced through the branches.  There was an awesome surprise at kilometer 15 of our 16km walk (we took a couple detours so ultimately walked 16km).  At this point in our hike Bradley’s whinging was intensifying and he was “about done with the elevation changes.” We came upon on opening where there was a cupboard filled with .25L wine bottles (red, white, and sparking) and wine glasses. A bottle of wine was €3 and there were benches and chairs set up overlooking a beautiful view where you could sit and enjoy a glass or two.  The last pleasant touch was guestbook at the end of the trail.   

Where we stayed:

We found a great AirBnB at Reuscher-Haart winery for $75CAD/night [http://www.weingut-reuscher-haart.de/index.php/en/apartments/2018-11-28-11-41-26].  The apartment was spacious, clean, comfortable, and had a fully equipped kitchen that allowed us to take a break from eating out.  We also enjoyed a couple of their dry Rieslings.  I have never been a fan of Riesling as I thought it was too sweet, but I learned a bit more about it on this trip and found some dry Rieslings that were very easy to drink 🙂

Reuscher-Haart, Piesport
Prost!

Next stop Alsace, France

Jasper Ski Trip

We are driving home from Jasper, taking in the scenery with sun-kissed (burnt) cheeks and tired legs.  We survived our first trip with a puppy and our second trip to Marmot Basin https://www.skimarmot.com/ this season.  It is wonderful living in Edmonton, so close to the mountains.  I missed the outdoors when I lived in NYC.  I spent a lot of time in Central Park and was grateful to have that sanctuary so close to escape the craziness of the city.  The north end of the park was peaceful, but even in the middle of winter I was sharing the park with other runners, bikers, strollers, and tourists.  In my last couple years I ventured upstate NY and did some beautiful hikes in Rhinebeck, Mt. Beacon, and Bear Mountain.  But, I always missed home, the coastline of Vancouver Island and the Rocky Mountains, which are some of the most majestic and beautiful places I have ever been. 

Growing up I was fortunate enough to go on family ski trips, mostly to Mt. Washington Alpine Resort-https://www.mountwashington.ca/.  As a teenager and in my early 20’s I continued to ski and snowboard with friends and family.  For the past twelve years the focus of my life has been school and work and I gave up a lot of my hobbies.  Living in Ottawa, Toronto, and NYC, I didn’t have a ski hill in my backyard and did not have the time and/or resources to go on ski trips.  One of my current goals is to figure out what my interests and hobbies are now.  I feel like a lost some of myself over the past few years, and with more time to enjoy life I want to figure out what it is that I enjoy.

With ski hills so close, I thought I would try skiing again, but was not sure if it was something that I would still enjoy.  Bradley is a skier and was enthusiastic about planning some trips.  For Christmas he got us Sunshine Super Cards. The Card is $100 and grants you a free full-day lift ticket on the 1st, 4th, and 7th day that you ski and $15-$25 off every other day at Sunshine Village, Marmot Basin, Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Castle Mountain Resort.

I have been lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time in Jasper, Banff, and Lake Louise over the years and always look forward to my next trip.  We went to Marmot for the first time in January and skied for two days.  It was cold, -15 degrees Celsius, but aside from cold hands I picked skiing back up pretty quickly and we had a good time.  Marmot is a good hill for testing out your abilities and interest again, the mountain offers a range of runs from easy and groomed to double black diamonds, including the new Tres Hombres face, that are steep and mogully.  Jasper is a 30-minute drive from Marmot base and a charming, albeit expensive, little mountain town to stay in for a ski weekend. 

WHERE TO STAY:

Jasper has around 10 hotels/motels in town that are similarly priced (usually starting approximately $150/night during ski season), and similarly equipped.  These are typical no-fuss ski motels.  They are clean and comfortable enough, but are a bit run down, and do not have many extra comforts.  We have stayed at the Tonquin Inn http://decorehotels.com/tonquininn/ and Marmot Lodge https://mpljasper.com/.   Both have pet friendly options. The other option is the Jasper Park Lodge (JPL) https://www.fairmont.com/jasper/.  As with most Fairmont Hotels, JPL is a beautiful resort with all the amenities you need.  However, it is expensive, starting at $300/night.  When you are already spending so much on travel, food, lift tickets, gear, etc, and will be on the hill all day, it is hard to justify spending that amount of money on a place to sleep.  If you want to splurge, this is the place to go.   

Marmot Lodge with my new travel companion

WHERE TO EAT:

Jasper Brewing Company

We like to pop into the Jasper Brewing Co – https://jasperbrewingco.ca/ when we get into town for a casual and reasonably priced late dinner and a pint of their locally brewed beer.  I am a fan of their 6060 Stout and Fire Engine Red Ale.  Although, I was slightly disappointed with my burger on this trip, it appeared to be some sort of pre-made/frozen burger patty and not homemade like last time.  We always go to CoCo’s Café http://cocoscafe.ca/.  This is our go-to place when we are driving through Jasper en route somewhere else and it is also where we like to go when we are staying in town for a good cup of coffee and a snack.  CoCo’s is small and busy so can be slow. 

Head to Evil Dave’s for an après ski dinner – https://evildavesgrill.com/.  We had multiple appetizers; the Chinese lettuce wraps were delicious! Three of us had the beef tenderloin ordered medium rare.  Two were cooked perfectly, one was overdone, but they were nice cuts of meat.  We shared the dessert trio, a small sample of all three desserts, it was great way to try a bit of everything.  The quality food is coupled with good service and a nice atmosphere.  If you are looking for a more upscale place to have dinner I would recommend heading here.

We will definitely go back to Jasper to ski Marmot next year, but also hope to try out some other hills in the area.  It is important to take time to do things you love with people you love and I am grateful that I am having these opportunities 🙂

V&B Workout Plan

V&B WORKOUT PLAN OVERVIEW:

Bradley and I created a plan that attempts to meet both of our interests and goals.  In creating this plan our primary goals were:

  1. Strength building
  2. Cardiovascular training/maintenance
  3. Stretching and muscle recovery
  4. Efficiency to reduce time spent in the gym each day

The plan is a four-day split

  1. Lower Body
  2. Upper Body Pull
  3. Upper Body Push
  4. Full Body

Plus 2 Cyclebar spin classes and 1 yoga class

WEIGHT LIFTING ROUTINE:

BB=Barbell, DB=Dumbbell, R=Rep

V&B WORKOUT PLAN UPDATE:

We are three weeks into this plan and so far, things kinda went to sh*t.  As I write this I am struggling to remember what the heck we even did.  Getting a new puppy the week before embarking on a new fitness routine may have been ambitious!  Sorting out our new schedule to ensure we are home with the puppy multiple times a day has been trying.  Housebreaking, training, and feeding, coupled with unexpected vet visits, house guests, unusually long work hours, travel, and dance classes threw a very large wrench in our plans.  As lovingly pointed out by my Dad over the weekend, this also resulted in some pretty dark eye circles 🙂  Add to that quite a few dinners out, too many bottles of wine (if there is such a thing), and lots of treats, we are not on track to accurately report the effectiveness of this plan in meeting our goals.

It is hard not to be disappointed when I do not meet my goals, especially if I am missing workouts for work!  I am making a conscious effort to prioritize other aspects of my life that bring me joy and not let work dominate.  It is much easier to swallow when I miss workouts to spend time with friends and family or to take care of our adorable new puppy.  I realize life is too short to beat myself up about it.  There are only so many hours in a day.

So, what did we manage to do:

Week 1 (March 4-10):

The first week I completed three of four lifting sessions, pull, push, and lower, one Cyclebar class, and did not make it to a yoga class.  This week ended up being a bit of a trial run as we realized there were a few kinks in our initial plan that we ironed out.  For example, I am not a fan of cable machines.  I find them awkward and challenging to target the right muscles.  This probably means I need to do them more to improve, but if we have a day filled with cables, I get frustrated (sorry B).  Initially our push day had three cable machine exercises so I made the executive decision to swap cable lateral raises with dumbbell lateral raises.  Aside from the minor tweaks, we were happy with the plan.  We are targeting each muscle group and are pretty wiped after each session.  The routine on average took 1 hour a day, including a 5-minute warmup.  One consideration in creating this plan was efficiency.  I enjoy the gym, but when our routines get too long, I get antsy. 

Week 2 (March 11-17):

Week two I also only completed three of four lifting sessions, full body, pull, and lower.  I did not make it to a Cyclebar or yoga class.  This week was challenging because we had houseguests and I travelled home to Vancouver Island for a few days.  Ordinarily when I travel I squeeze in some workouts, but on this trip I was sitting on the porch drinking gin and tonics 😉 I wish… I actually locked myself in my Dad’s basement to cry with my sister while sorting through childhood belongings.

Week 3 (March 18-24):

Week three started when I was still on the island. I squeezed in a 5-mile run, but I did not make it to the gym when I was there.  When I got back to Edmonton, we were dealing with a sick puppy all week and had company over the weekend.  I only completed two of four lifting sessions, push and full, and went to one Cyclebar class.  

The reality is, our schedule is not opening up in the next few weeks.  When we created this plan we were going to the gym 6-7 times a week and it seemed feasible.  This is not the first time our schedule has been hectic and interrupted workouts and it surely will not be the last.  At the end of the day, fitting in 3-4 workouts a week is pretty good.  Depending on how the next few weeks unfold, we may have to give this another shot when things mellow out so we can really track how effective it is.  For now, we will keep at it as best we can and are grateful that we are happy, healthy, and exhausted 🙂

I can’t be mad at this adorable face for taking up some of our time!

Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash

We recently signed up for truLOCAL deliveries [https://www.trulocal.ca/]. We have talked about finding local meat for a few months now, ideally we would like to purchase a 1/4-1/2 cow, fresh chicken, turkey, etc., and stock our freezer.  In the meantime, we came across truLOCAL and decided to give it a try. TruLOCAL “connects you to high-end, locally-sourced meat products – delivered right to your doorstep.” You customize the meat selections in your box and choose the frequency of delivery. We received one box and are very happy with the product so far. Our second arrives in a few days!

In our first box we received lean ground turkey and decided to make turkey meatballs with spaghetti squash. I do not have a go-to meatball recipe, but came across Gordon Ramsay’s recipe [https://www.gordonramsay.com/gr/recipes/courgetti-spaghetti-and-turkey-meatballs/.] We did not include onions in the meatballs, substituted fresh tomatoes for canned, and used tomato paste instead of tomato purée. We also added one cup of diced bell peppers and 1/2 a jalapeño pepper to the sauce. The Gordon Ramsay ingredients and instructions with our modifications are below or you can use the link above for the original recipe.

FOR THE MEATBALLS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g lean ground turkey
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp Italian breadcrumbs
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put the turkey into a mixing bowl with the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, beaten egg, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything together until thoroughly combined.
  2. With wet hands, roll the mixture into 20 meatballs and put them on to a plate. Cover with saran wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. While the meatballs are chilling, prepare the sauce (see below)
  4. To cook the meatballs, place a frying pan over a medium heat and add a dash of oil. Once hot, brown the meatballs in batches, turning frequently so they colour on all sides. Transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce to cook for a further 10 minutes until cooked through, turning from time to time. If the sauce becomes too thick, add 50–100ml of water.

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 800g chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 1 cup diced bell peppers
  • 1 jalapeño pepper finely diced
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp balsamic vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a dash of olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and sauté for 5–6 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste and continue to cook for 2 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, oregano, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything together and leave to simmer for 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add prepared meatballs.

We paired this with spaghetti squash, an easy healthy alternative for pasta. To prepare, simply cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and discard, coat the inside with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, place cut-side down on a pan covered with parchment, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes. The squash is done when the cut-side is browned and can be easily pierced. Use a fork to scrape out the squash.

Enjoy!!

Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry Recipe

Stir fry is a quick, easy, and healthy dinner option.   I usually make it on a whim because I have vegetables in the fridge that I want to use up or I see something inspiring at the grocery store.  We like to spend Sunday afternoon in the kitchen prepping lunches and dinner for the week, but last weekend we got tied up, didn’t have time to prep, and had to hit up the grocery store on Monday with no dinner plan in place for the week.  We didn’t have a ton of time and wanted something quick and easy.  I came across baby bok choy and decided to make a chicken and vegetable stir fry with cauliflower rice.  Stir fry is a great way to easily get a healthy serving of vegetables and, if you add chicken, some protein. I don’t add a lot of sauce so the end result is a delicious and filling combo of juicy chicken mixed with fresh vegetables! 

There is something very satisfying about chopping and combining all the vibrant colors of many different vegetables!

Ingredients:

Cauliflower Rice:

  • 1-2 heads of cauliflour
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable Stir fry:

  • 1 jalapeño
  • 4-5 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 3 bell peppers sliced (yellow, red, orange, or green)
  • 4 bunches of baby bok choy
  • 5-7 oz bean sprouts
  • 1 large head of broccoli florets
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 5 large cloves of garlic crushed or finely chopped
  • 1-inch piece of ginger finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 1 tbsp of Sriracha
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Baked Chicken Breast:

  • 5 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cayenne pepper

Directions:

Cauliflower Rice:

  • Cut head(s) of cauliflower into chunks and either grate with a cheese grater or put in a food processor using the grater attachment
  • Add 1 tbsp of coconut oil (or olive oil) in a large sauté pan and add cauliflower, water, and salt and pepper
  • Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender

Cauliflower rice is a fantastic low calorie and low carb substitute for regular rice. I have also tried roasting it in the oven, but prefer the texture when cooked on the stove top as it is closer to regular rice.

Stir fry:

  • Add olive oil, garlic, and ginger to a wok over low-medium heat and sauté for 5 minutes
  • Add carrots and water, cover and cook for another 5 minutes
  • Add broccoli, peppers, bok choy, bean sprouts, soy sauce, sriracha, and salt and pepper
  • Cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender but still have a bit of crunch

Baked Chicken Breast:

We baked a pan of chicken because we wanted to use some for lunches.

  • Prep tip, chop extra veggies as well for lunches!

Coat chicken with olive oil (we love our Misto Sprayer – http://www.misto.com/), salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bake at 375 degrees for approx. 35 minutes or until internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  

You can also slice the chicken and add it directly to the stir fry.  Cook the chicken first in a tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Remove and follow the instructions above. Once the vegetables are almost done, add the chicken back into the wok.

ENJOY!

This recipe made enough for 8 meals total, 4 each for Bradley and me.