Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Zeeuwse Strand en Landroute - Day 2

Bike saddlebags for sale at Westkapelle street market

First part of the journey is fairly magnificent -- out of Westkapelle along a dike above the beach, a sand hiking trail alongside it. The beach is broad here, sections divided by rows of log posts. Families take their cars to the edge and set up chairs right by their vehicles. I passed a classic barber shop-striped lighthouse. Now I will follow the coast up to Domburg.

Westkapelle vuurtoren

"The water and beaches along this coast are part of the Voordelta, a shallow sea by sandbars and deep gullies. A special meeting place for sea and river, land and water, man and nature." (sign by the path)

A few of Zeeland's beaches

(Note to faithful followers: this is a much delayed post, the continuation of a journey I made last year in late summer.)

The day could not be better. Quite warm with a slight breeze. It's a Friday so not too busy.  The Reinhouds (my cycling hosts last night) were quite nice, especially their daughter, Hanna. Jan, the patriarch, told me he rides to Middelburg and back every day, rain or shine, summer or winter. They explained to me that the southern part of Zeeland is called Zeuss-Flanderen, after the dialect that is spoken in these parts, Zeeuse.

Zeeuwse Strand en Landroute - Day 2 (ANWB map)

Domburg had a central street with lots of cafes, a bike store -- where a mechanic loaned me a small wrench so I could put my new rear rack straps on -- and a yuppie deli where I got a paté sandwich for €5.95. Many Germans here. Elizabeth Reinhoud had told me that most of the visitors here were German, French, Belgian or English. Not many Americans. I had had my breakfast with a fellow from Cologne and his adorable son.

Westhove Castle
Continued past a castle with a StayOkay hostel inside a nature reserve. It had bikes for rent and a nice cafe overlooking a stream. Watched some jackdaws hopping around the lawn, stout black birds with a charcoal gray crest and a proud bearing.

I somehow lost the trail to point 16 and ended up in the town of Oostkapelle, not so busy as Domburg. Stopped at another beach, on the north coast, between Domburg and Oostkapelle. More perfect coast: surf gently rolling in, sailboats in the sea mist, gulls, fine sand, a little lagoon. A few people venture into the cold sea, others walk up the beach with their dogs. Swaths of beach are separated by log fences.

Beyond Oostkapelle I found the Duinen beach, a very popular one with crowds streaming up and down the access path, parked bicycles jamming the barbed wire fences. This was a long beautiful beach with lots of seagulls settling in the sand. The sand here is fine and clean, tumbling down from grassy dunes. Kids fly kites. Many sunbathers have windscreens but there isn't much wind. It felt great to finally jump into the cold sea.

Now that almost everyone has left (at 6:30 pm), it is quite calm and the sun continues to bathe the dunes and sea in a warm glow. Just the sounds of surf crashing and kids gleefully shouting, seagulls crying. The dunes are artfully sculpted around the locked white cabins.

The ride from the beach to Vrouwenpolder was very nice: a packed dirt path through a band of low woods, like a tunnel, then farm fields opening on the right, then just a lovely cobblestoned lane. Fortunately I had superimposed the knoppunten onto the Google map for my friend's house, so it was a cinch to find Lepelstraat, a country road with farmhouses. By the time I reached 16, a big old brick house, the aroma of manure hung over the scene.

Franziska de Visser, my vriend op de fiets in Vrouwenpolder
I was greeted by Franziska, a wholesome looking blonde in a faded olive skirt. I shook her hand and introduced myself. We chatted in Dutch. A gangly man with a goofy grin appeared. I went to shake his hand and he just looked at me, then walked away. "My man is sick," Franziska told me. Mentally, that is. She later explained to me that he has dementia, and he's not expected to live much longer. She explained all this cheerfully. Franziska then showed me my accommodations: a converted trailer!

My very own trailer

Evening. The weather continues to be mild. I'm sitting outside at the terrace of a pizzeria in Vrouwenpolder, on the bank of the Veerse Meer, the waterway that separates Walcheren from Beveland. It feels very nice to be out here. Continued ...

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