Last week we went cycling on Texel Island. Texel is a small island off the coast of the Netherlands, part of the five Dutch Wadden Sea Islands. Texel is the biggest island, roughly 25 km long and 10 km wide.
So, early morning of last Monday my husband loaded our bikes on the car (and our luggage in the car) and we drove the 230 km to the ferry port of Den Helder in the north of the Netherlands. Looking at all the cars with bikes on them that were waiting at the terminal, we feared the island would be very busy, also taking into account the perfect island weather. We were lucky our ferry departed within minutes. The crossing was only 20 minutes.
Cycling on Texel is a dream. Beautiful cycle paths in between meadows and farmland with grazing sheep and little lambs, goats and cows, or through the woods, and everything flat on the Wadden Sea side of the island, even flatter than 'le plat pays qui est le mien' (words borrowed from Jacques Brel). A little bit hilly in the dunes, that are wide and lead to long fine sandy beaches. Lots of birds on the ponds. Too bad we forgot to take our binoculars. Texel is a very relaxing island, quiet and peaceful, with small villages, beautiful wild flowers and lots of fresh air everywhere. A lot of wind, too!
Some pictures ...
The ferry crossing
On our first (half) day we rode the 'lambs route', 47 km. Very nice!
These were our 'neighbours', the view from our hotel room.
A flat country in the nether lands, but still very pretty. My mental image of the Benelux countries is always that distances are short, even though I know better from having driven all over them more than once. But I was still surprised that you had to drive 230km to the ferry port. I shouldn't, though, because just driving from the bottom to the top of Luxembourg (the country, not the Belgian province) has sometimes seemed endless to me.
Modern houses are definitely "no nonsense" compared to all of the frills that were put on buildings in the past. I wonder why we got over that.
Beautiful once again. As much as I love the first hollyhocks of the season, I find that I get tired of them when they are suddenly everywhere. They are impudent.
Once again looking at the houses, I am reminded of the standard Dutch retort to French people asking why the houses do not have any shutters. "Because we have nothing to hide!"
Frankly, though, I am a bit surprised that a lot of these northern places did not use shutters even in the old days. (Now of course, the excellent double or triple paned windows available make shutters superfluous for thermal reasons.) But before the modern era, it seems to me that even just for storm protection, shutters would have made sense.
I absolutely never close my shutters (unlike my neighbours -- at certain times I see that my shutters are the only ones open in the entire building), except for the kitchen window maybe 3 or 4 days in the year if the temperature is going to go above 35° -- but that's to protect the herbs in the window box and pots, not me. Yet I have fond memories of my grandparents' house in Lorraine. Opening all of the shutters in the morning and closing them at dusk was practically an official ceremony, since it was done even for rooms that were rarely used -- the dining room which was used perhaps one Sunday a month and the second upstairs bedroom, which was my mother's childhood bedroom and which was only used by guests a couple of weeks a year. One of the most important things about the shutters is when the routine is broken -- it often means that someone is ill or has perhaps died. Everybody in the village knows the opening and closing times of the various shutters, so if they don't open or don't close, it almost always means that something is wrong.
These islands look lovely to cycle in, although I am not much of a cyclist. Flat and easy. Nice little villages too.
Funny what Kerouac says about shutters. I too never close shutters except on our bedroom at night. Sometimes on west-facing windows in summer when it gets very hot. Neighbours have metnioned to me that everything is always open at our place.
I like hollyhocks all the time, except that he leaves get too big and rusty. But the flowers are so nice.
I like hollyhocks until the leaves turn yellow. They get too messy when in that stadium.
We still have the ceremony of closing all our shutters at dusk, and open them in the morning. Just as our neighbours. As far as I know, all the (older) houses in our neighbourhood have shutters, unlike in Holland. My Dutch friends often wonder why we have them. I always tell them I don't want people to see what we're having for dinner.
Just beautiful, Amboseli -- and the sheep & the hollyhocks posed so nicely for you! There is not a motor vehicle to be seen in any of your pictures, which must have been heaven. What a lovely idea to take your bikes to "the past" so you could ride and ride in peace and quiet and clean air. I love all the photos, but the one of the brick track through the trees is a favorite.
On our last day we rode around the island: from our hotel (on the west side) through the dunes along the North Sea to the very north of the island (with a strong northern wind), then along the Wadden Sea back south (with almost no pedaling) and back to the hotel. A nice tour of 65 km.
On low tide one can walk on the sandbanks, i.e. on the bottom of the Wadden Sea. That's what these people are doing, with a guide of course. It's an adventurous and tough hike, often through thick mud.
On Friday morning we left the island and visited the cheese market in Alkmaar, which was on our way back home. It’s a touristy market but the cheese is still weighted and carried as it used to be in the old days. We strolled the small city with its cute houses and many bridges.
The houses and the canals are lovely, but the cheese ceremony is a bit too touristy for me, even if it is photogenic. (Ha ha, I am eating cubes of gouda with cumin as I write this.) The Dutch girls with their wooden shoes are a bit over the top as well. Yes, of course I would have taken the same pictures.
This report is out of this world, Amboseli. Well, almost literally in the peaceful parts, as that's not something most of us get to see in our daily lives. I have not lived near marshland in many years, but your pictures forcefully remind me of how other-worldly and beautiful it can be. Indeed, you really captured the sometimes elusive beauty of vast stretches of flat land -- something else I'd almost forgotten.
Glad you went to Alkmaar to show us what it's like. I'd read about it & thought about visiting, but it did sound awfully touristy. Wow, is it! Still, great pictures & you show how the men pick up those sledge things with the cheese on them.
Would you take that sandflats tour? It does look most interesting but, as you say, tough.
I'm not much of a hiker and I think it might be too exhausting if you're not well trained. Which I am not.
We have a lot of green and nature where I live, but it's so different from northern Holland. Years ago we cycled in Friesland. The sky was so big and there was so much fresh air. Same on Texel Island on the Wadden Sea side. When you look around there was nothing but a big blue sky.