Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hollandse Bloemenroute

The spring had arrived and we wanted to see some flowers. The area around Lisse is known for its vast tulip fields. It was another fine day, supposedly the last in a while, so we chose a tour from, the 32.2 km Dutch Flower route.
(original date of this entry: April 3, 2014)
We went to Nieuwe Vennep, an utterly normal village south of the airport. The town appears to be nothing more than a square tract of homes with a shopping cluster on the plein. We had our herring there, then rode up the town's main thoroughfare, which runs alongside a canal. Many others were out cycling, which made me think once again that cycling humanizes an otherwise nondescript suburban environment.

photo by Alice DK
The route leads right into the adjacent village of Hillegom, with an attractive square where the cafe terraces were busy. We headed north alongside railroad tracks to the Hillegom station (and I realized we could've ridden the train to Hillegom which would've put us right on the route). Then we crossed the tracks and reached the first field of flowers: long bands of pink and white hyacinths flanked by a canal where a lone swan floated.

Actual tulips
We then turned around and headed right down through the flower fields, which extend in a north-south band that parallels the coast. Despite the beauty of the long strands of hyacinths and narcissus, this was not a peaceful stretch but a busy one with lots of commercial traffic, warehouses and well-appointed farm dwellings along its length. Interspersed with the big fields were smaller plantings, perhaps by smaller family outfits. Even with the competition, probably you could make a living with a less than gigantic plot since the flowers are so valuable. The sweet fragrance of the millions of flowers filled the air. We saw a few patches of small orange-colored tulips but most were still green and will burst into color in a week or two.

De Zilk
We emerged from the fields at the small community of De Zilk, the west edge of urbanization--beyond, it's just dunes. Here we turned off the road into a big flower field and had lunch. We didn't see any people and wondered how the blooms are picked.

South of point 44 the route flanks the coastal dunes and we were riding through peaceful dune forest, a very nice transition from the flower fields and, unexpectedly, the loveliest stretch of the tour. At point 86 there is a footpath to the beach, a distance of 500-600 m, a bit far that late in the day. Point 86 is at the intersection of the LF-1, the Nordzee trail, which continues down to Den Haag with beach turnoffs all along the way. Our route followed the LF-1 till the next knooppunt, 43: sea breeze, pines, a gently undulating path. Then we turned inland and skirted the town of Noordwijkerhout. This becomes a road with ample auto traffic, flanked by more vast fields of hyacinth, which paint the landscape with purple and white bands.

Photo by Alice DK
Southeast toward Sassenheim it's still busy, and we somehow missed the sign for point 55. From here we were unable to get back on the route and rode around the vicinity of Lisse trying to get re-oriented. It was getting late and Alice suggested we just make a bee-line for the train. We went south past a windmill toward the highway (A44), somehow ending up on the Hoofdvaart, a long straight canal that goes northeast to Nieuw-Vennep. Along the way we stopped at a church  where a bunch of oldsters were filing in for choral practice. We reached Nieuw-Vennep at dusk. 

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