Two personal friends from Phoenix Arizona (USA) were visiting the Netherlands recently and they told me they would like to give cycling a try. It was an excellent idea: when you are on a holiday in the cycling nation of the world you just have to get on a bicycle! So we took them from Haarlem railway station to the coast through the wonderful dunes near Bloemendaal and Zandvoort. A 33 kilometre or 20 mile ride. We had set the date months in advance, so it was a gamble if the weather would be okay, but it couldn’t have been better! A clear blue sky, almost no wind and a very good temperature of about 27C (80F).
The route was almost 33km or 20 miles
Even for an untrained person, cycling in the Netherlands is really easy. We took the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem to skip the dull part from Amsterdam to there. In Haarlem we rented 4 bicycles for the day for just 19 euros, Two OV-fietsen (for 3 euros each, the maximum number of bikes you can rent on one subscription) and two standard rental bikes (for 6.5 euros each). Seeing how easy and quick it was to rent bikes at the station, even without making reservations first, made our friends say: “This is all so efficient. Everything is organised to make cycling easy and convenient. You guys rent bicycles from the station like we [in the US] rent a car at an airport.”
From Haarlem station we only had to cycle a short stretch to reach the forest first and then the dunes, all on great dedicated cycling infrastructure. We had plotted a recreational route using the numbered junction system, so all we needed to do was follow the numbers to the next junction in our route.
At a very leisurely pace we enjoyed the cycling, the landscape and the company. Some of the forest dune landscape reminded our friends of Michigan. Which is interesting when you consider that so many Dutch emigrants settled there in the past. They must have felt at home! In those dunes we met some Scottish Highlander cattle, that roam the area freely. One of the big animals was just standing there, right next to the cycle path. One should always pass with due care, but with this large woolly beast we didn’t even have to think about that. Cycling in the dunes involved going up and down a bit more than our friends anticipated. The Netherlands is not all flat and after all you have to go up to the sea in the country that lies beneath sea level! After lunch in Bloemendaal aan Zee (“Bloomingdale by the Sea”) we made sure we got our feet wet in the North Sea. Then we cycled along the coast line to Zandvoort. From there it was a straight line back to Haarlem where we had a great dinner. You don’t need much for a wonderful day out!
Under the map of the route our friends wrote on their own holiday blog: “Our 20 mile route, beginning and ending at the charming and historic town of Haarlem, winding through a national park, forests, dunes, and along the beautiful beaches of the North Sea. 90% of visitors to the Netherlands never leave Amsterdam. They have no idea what they are missing. Bicycling is as integral to Dutch culture as communion is to Catholicism. To ride is to partake of the culture in a truly meaningful way. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. The biking infrastructure here is unparalleled in the world. On Monday we spent the whole day with Mark and Lei on a cycling Odyssey of Homeric proportions. It was one of the best days of my life.”
And of course: we got the video to prove it!
A fun day cycling in a holiday to the Netherlands.
Last year I had been cycling along the coast on my own near The Hague. The dune landscape there is very similar. Many people visit the Netherlands to study the cycling. A number of Americans was in the Netherlands in July and quite a number of people from the UK came to visit as well. Also to admire the mundane part of the Dutch cycling culture: establishing that every random village, town and city has good cycling infrastructure.