• Jo Bee

Exploring South Holland

Last summer I stayed with one of my best friends in the Netherlands for 5 days and had an amazing time. Her relatives kindly let us stay in their house in Wassenaar whilst they were away which was super cool. I immediately fell in love with this small town when I first stepped off the bus. There was a pretty lake with willow trees surrounding it and the houses all had lovely frontages decorated with flowers and pots.

They had kindly given us permission to borrow their bikes whilst they were away and once I had unpacked we set out exploring on them. If the town hadn't already sold itself to me then it sure did at that point. Within a couple of minutes of cycling we were on a smooth tarmac road overlooking a pretty tulip field with pastel shades stretching as far as the eye could see. My friend had already been staying in the Netherlands for a couple of weeks prior to me arriving so she immediately knew that the beach would be great place to spend the afternoon. Now we both already enjoy going cycling in the UK but the ride was 100 times easier given that there was only 1 proper hill, for what was a several kilometre bike ride (we both loved that and couldn't get over how flat it was!) Even though there was only 1 hill I still felt that dread at the bottom of it knowing that I'd have to get up it (I'm such a pessimist haha!) The beach at Wassenaar was lovely, we took a tent down to shelter from the sun and had a paddle in the sea, read our books and chatted for a bit. It was quite busy down there and there was restaurant overlooking the beach which looked very nice.

We also went on some very scenic bike rides around Wassenaar and the surrounding areas, past the river where there were always kids jumping off this one particular bridge. I must say though, my number one recommendation for anyone visiting the town is: you guessed, it is food related - an ice cream parlour called Luciano's. It was one of the best ice cream bars I've ever been to! Honestly, it was so good and there was so much choice in terms of flavours!

On another day we cycled to the Hague from Wassenaar. It was such a beautiful journey, through the open landscape with fields either side. You could see the sea at some points and it was beautiful, also it was fairly quiet with other cyclists being the only other people we'd really pass. Once we made it to the outskirts of the city we locked up our bikes and took a tram into the centre. We went to the old part of the city which was very pretty and walked over the bridge and along the river overlooking the Parliament buildings. These were pretty amazing in themselves with a water feature outside and amazing views of them from the bridge.

There was a large tree covered area nearby which holds a big market, however, unfortunately there wasn't a market on the day we went but I've heard it's supposed to be very good. When we were there there was an outdoor exhibition of sand sculptures which was very interesting, the one pictured below particularly caught my eye.

Afterwards, we browsed around the shops. If you visit you definitely have to go to the department store called De Bijenkorf, it was huge and felt quite grand and they had some very very luxurious items to marvel at. We found some smaller shops a little further out of the centre where I purchased some souvenirs and postcards before we headed to Schevenigen beach which was very close to where we had left the bikes. We relaxed there for about an hour and took a walk down the promenade which was very lively and full of bars and restaurants. We decided to buy an ice cream and found a kiosk where they were selling all sorts of flavours, in the end I chose a pistachio one which was delicious. We sat on the wall and enjoyed them, taking in the views of the beach which appeared to stretch for miles. As half my memories seem to be food related, *sigh* (why can't I remember more important things in life?!) I just want to drop in the fact that I tried schnitzel for dinner that night and absolutely loved it - would highly recommend!

One afternoon we decided to visit Leiden, another lovely city. Again we cycled there, past reservoir on the way and then through the outskirts of the city; it was nice to see the less touristy parts too. Leiden itself was lovely, the canals were very pretty and there were many cafes with outdoor seating looking out onto it which was very nice. We had a smoothie and cake in one of the patisseries which was the perfect way to take in the scenery. The city also had a fort - the Burcht Van Leiden which we walked up and looked out from. A little fact for you was that historically an indicator of wealth was if you could afford red roof tiles over black ones so many people would tile the front of their property in red and the back in black but from the fort you could tell which ones were only half covered!

The cathedral looked stunning from the outside as pictured, however, as we had the bikes we were unable to go inside.

We also fully embraced the Dutch lifestyle of fitting 2 people onto one bike and my friend cycled us both home, which was super fun! The best part was when there was an underpass and she was like 'Hold on!' I couldn't see what was coming up as I was sat behind her and before I knew it we were whizzing down this steep ramp!

I had a super time and couldn't believe how fast it went but will 100% hopefully visit that region again.

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