Pulling up at my house in Scheveningen, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to get off a bike. I had spent the day cycling approximately 45 kilometres with two friends IB and A, for a casual Sunday bike ride. What was meant for a quick trip to the town of Wassenaar – about 8 kilometres away, turned into an epic marathon on two wheels. Though I would happily do it again in a second. It was a day full of gezellig-ness and fun (and sore butts)
We met up at the Peace Palace at around 10am, where the majestic Palace was already crowded with tourists and stopped at ‘De Oude Tol’, a cafe with the best view of the Peace Palace and cheap, strong coffee. We set off just before 11am and decided to go via the sand dunes to Waasenaar. The sand dune area between The Hague and Wassenar is known as Meijendel and is one of the most important coastlines in the Netherlands. It is vital for the conservation of wildlife, providing drinking water and recreation. Over one million visitors come to Meijendel each year. It has excellent cycling paths and hiking tracks to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The cycle path is relatively easy – like the entirety of the Netherlands it is mostly flat. Though a slight raise in the road as you go over the dunes can feel like a mountain when you are used to flat ground! Being a Sunday, there were plenty of people around and lots of professional looking cyclists speeding past us three girls – making us feel like we were going the wrong way in the Tour De France.
We reached the turn-off for Wassenaar but tour guide A had spotted some tulip fields on her map so we continued past the turn-off in the direction of Katwijk. The fields we found were nothing like the huge fields last weekend at the Keukenhof but the rows of daffodils were the perfect opportunity for an impromptu photo-shoot. I thought I would be flowered out from last weekends activities but once again my inner flora nerd made an appearance as I gushed over the beautiful flowers.
We continued on under A’s trusty guidance and with the encouragement from a group of passing cyclists (“Ahh lekker meisjes!“) until we reached the beachside town of Katwijk. Much like our town of Scheveningen, Katwijk had a relaxed vibe and there was a salty scent to the air. We parked our fiets and wandered down to the sand where we had a coffee stop at one of the cafes on the small boulevard. The ocean wasn’t particularly pretty today and despite the sun being out it was still chilly, making this Aussie girl pine for her glorious Australian beaches. You just can’t beat ’em!
After our caffeine fix we jumped back on our trusty bikes and headed off in the direction of Leiden, hopefully finding a turn-off before there that will take us back to Wassenaar. A slight detour through some farming area we eventually were on the right way to our destination. Cycling along, it was hard not to smile at the lush, green paddocks filled with fat cows and sheep and the canals that paralleled with the road. The warm change in the weather had encouraged the trees to sprout their leaves early and wild flowers were running rampant wherever there was grass. This, plus the mix of endorphins from cycling made the burn in my quads bearable as we cycled closer to Wassenaar.
As we biked into Wassenaar, the place was like a ghost town. Much like every other town in Holland, locals seemed to disappear on Sundays, though we had now found out where they all went – cycling in Meijendel! Despite Wassenaar being a relatively small town, it is one of the most well known in the Netherlands due to its conspicuous wealth. It is the official residence of King Willem-Alexander and his family and home to several ambassadorial residencies including Canada and South Korea. It has a reputation of being a ‘posh’ area, however it was hard to tell as there seemed to be nobody around the town. The main shopping area was desolate apart from a couple of cafes serving a few families who were basking in the sunshine. We visited the ‘Windlust’ which is the windmill in the town that was built in 1668. Despite years of unuse, the windmill has started milling again regularly and is open on Saturday afternoons for visitors.
A late lunch at ‘Bagel Alley’, which was prompt and delicious was had before discovering Wassenaar’s greatest attraction – ‘Luciano Ijssalon’. Basically an ice-cream shop, Luciano was the mecca of all things dairy and frozen in Wassenaar. It appeared to be a favourite amongst ‘Wassenaarders’ (locals), as there was a line out the door. We were expecting the prices to be similar to the reputation of the town but were pleasantly surprised (OK, ecstatic) to learn it was very cheap – 2.90€ for three scoops! We umm-ed and ahh-ed for a bit before making our final choice. I went for brownie, Speculoos and pistachio and was very happy with my choice until I learnt they had Bounty. Not to worry though, we vowed to return here, the ice-cream was sublime. We demolished our ice-creams and enjoyed the sunshine for awhile before embarking home which was a relatively short ride compared to the distance we had covered earlier today.
I arrived home, glad to be off my fiets – the ‘Captain’ – but content with such an active and fun Sunday. It was a lovely way to end my weekend and I will definitely be sleeping well tonight!
From the girl who probably will be crawling up the stairs tomorrow.