Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Scheveningen and Den Haag Coast, north

In April I was assigned to write an article about the Den Haag coast, so I went there to gather material, cycled around and scribbled. What follows are my notes and photos from that expedition. The article is here

Today I would just like to cycle round the dunes north of Scheveningen, get a taste before bothering with water sports, seaside restaurants and so on. It's a stretch of the LF1 that I've yet to traverse.

(original date of this entry: Apr 13, 2016)

Now on the beach just north of Scheveningen. A brick water tower marks a gateway to the zone, which supplies pure drinking water to Zuid-Holland. As predicted, it's a nice day though so far not so sunny. The haze screens the sun and keeps it cool. The broad beach stretches before the dunes, gently sloping to a strip of lagoon, then over a final hump the sea laps the shore gently, the water the color of blue steel. The beach is practically empty, a couple or single person now and then trodding across it. There's a slight but constant cool breeze. As the water rolls in you can hear it breaking up and down the shore. A few big ships out there in the distance, outlined nebulously in the mist. Beach grass pokes out of the sand behind me, then a row of low dunes. Horse prints, footprints and tire tracks crisscross the beach. There's a cafe that appears open where a pair of young women sit at a table outside, one in t-shirt despite the chill.

It was easy to get out here. Behind the station I skirted Malieveld park and soon found a sign pointing to kp 29 and the LF-4. This route took me past the palace that contains the MC Escher Museum and the Mexican Embassy, two spots I've visited in the past. On the way to kp 37, I pass some stately mansions, then enter another park, the Scheveningse Bosjes, where small trees are budding. Then, on the way to kp 39, I enter the protected beach zone right at the water tower.

Den Haag - Meijendel

It's already almost 4 o'clock. I'm now at the cafe, run by an unusually friendly young couple. It's a small shack with the typical tables on the sand in front, hemmed in by glass pane partitions to shield you from the wind. Various dog walkers out on the beach now. They walk along the strip of lagoon, their figures reflected in the still surface. In a couple of months it will be a different scene here as bodies crowd the beach.

A raven stops at my table for a look at the offerings, now just a few cubes of brown sugar. The haze has finally burned off and the sun beams down unobstructed. A woman and child were swimming in the sea.

Strictly for walkers
The young bearded man at the cafe asked me if I'd come out for walking. I said I was on my bike. "Going to Meijendel?" He was referring to a wooded zone amid the dunes, a bit further up. I should go there.

The walking trails around here are marked by numbers on wooden posts. Along the trail out to this section of the beach is knooppunt 12, a node on trails 13 and 54. There are also four short hikes taking off from the water tower marked by color-coded signs. The red one traverses the 'varied landscape' of Meijendel. As everywhere else in the Netherlands, the nature zone is zealously preserved and maintained for public enjoyment.

kp 39 -> 40 (LF-1)
Purple flowers now carpeting the dunes. You follow a maroon brick road, much like the one at Castricum. It climbs for a bit, then descends roller-coaster style through yellowish hills studded with low spindly trees and brown shrubs, all budding now. A fair number of cyclists out on a Wednesday afternoon, both casual leisurely riders and racers, who can be heard approaching from behind like locomotives. Keep to the side. To the east clouds bundle up and rumble ominously. Lagoons stud the zone, with sandy walking trails beside them marked by (purposely) rusty signs. Other trails thread up upon the tree-covered hills, and there are beach turnoffs along the way. It's a recreational paradise.

kp 40 -> 41 -> 43
Here they've set up a marvelous observation point for sweeping views of the dunes and lagoons. Log handrails lead up to a sandy platform with bench. A superb birding spot: jackdaws, magpies, brownish ducks or geese. 
Another lookout takes in a greenish lagoon, trees along its banks twittering with small birds, waterfowl floating on the surface between clumps of reeds. 
A white pebbly path skirts the brick bike lane, then goes into the woods. I walked through woods to the Ganzenhoek, a swamp inhabited by striated brown geese. This trail skirts the chain of lagoons thruogh sparse dune foliage to the edge of Meijendel reserve. The brick bike trail climbs through pine forest, ground littered with needles and cones. At kp 41 (border of reserve) is a big-ass hotel/restaurant, the Duinoord (a Fletcher hotel). From here, you could continue on to Katwijk aan Zee (5.5km north) or cut through the reserve toward Wassenaar, which I'll do. 

Ganzenhoek ('goose corner')

kp 43 -> 47 -> 46
Coming out of the reserve is a paved road with two lanes for cyclists, one for pedestrians, over which you could imagine what it would be like to live in a carless society. Soon enough it merges with the road into Wassenaar, where are quite a few cars--long lines of 'em standing still--and the bike path is a separate road behind a ditch. Then toward kp 46, skirting Wassenaar, I continue along dull suburban roads, nobody walking, past a series of estates. Finally toward kp 46, I return to the reserve along the sandstone brick road. "It's a bike path, so no scooters or mopeds" reads a sign.
Meijendel, recreational paradise
At last I reach the heart of Meijendel. It's very nice: a varied wooded section on a hilltop, and the brick road winds through it, gently rising and falling.

Scheveningen pier/bungee jump
Coming back into the city, I realized I really don't know Scheveningen at all. An outlying district of Den Haag, it's an old seaside resort. Huge pier, massive beachside pavilion, many generic eateries and "grand cafés." There's a McDonald's too. I went for the obvious choice: kibbeling (fried codfish pieces) at Simonis, your typical fried fish joint. The green saus they squirted on it was vile so I asked for a portion of knoflook (garlic) saus. Continued ...

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