We are connecting up our Flanders ride that ends in Antwerp, with a ride across the border and into the Netherlands. This is a fairly technical ride.
Stage One: Antwerp to Zundert 36,3 km
We leave from Antwerp’s Terminus, many buses make connections and make our way to the fietspad beside the busy ring road around town. This takes us over and under several bridges and through an industrial area, before we connect with the path beside a canal. We ride on, beside the canal, until just before a bridge, where we turn off left through an industrial area and then watch for signs to take us through the main street of Merksem. There is a welcome fietspad that takes us into the burbs and to a busy N road, where it continues beside. We pass through another town and then the route signs disappear, so we rely on our directions and hope for the best. Continue on through the town of Gooreind Wuustwezel on a red brick fietspad. When we see the sign proclaiming Brabant province, we realize that we have crossed into the Netherlands. We ride on through the town of Wernhout and soon we enter Zundert and we can leave the side of the N road as we wind our way to the centrum and locate our hotel. Whew! This town is the birthplace of Vincent Van Gogh, and we are big fans. The tourist office is loaded with information and exhibits. A sculpture by Zadkine depicts the bond of brotherhood shared by brothers Vincent and Theo.
It’s adjacent to the Protestant church where they were baptized.
A plaque marks his birthplace.
Stage Two: Zundert to Breda 22,2 km
We have a nice warm sunny day today, which is always welcome. We make our way out of town on a fietspad and once we reach the roundabout, we crossover left. There are a number of routes that would get us to Breda, so we chose what looked like the most scenic and found that this was a popular route for cyclists. The signage was good and part of this was on a “button” route, as they are called. It passes through farmlands and is much nicer than riding beside the busy, more direct, N road. We pass by a lake to our left: one of the ones formed in the 1400s when the dikes were breached, and a tidal wave of water came over this whole region, flooding the region and killing many people. And these lakes that we see in this region are the results of that massive flooding in the 1400s. Today they are purely recreational. We meet up with a nice two way fietspad, next to the road, that will take us on a overpass over the highway and then lead beside woods and fields of this nature preserve. We ride on to enter Breda, which is a pretty good sized town. Getting to the centrum and our B and B required some road crossing and negotiating some one way roads and crossings. It was a bit confusing; but, we were happy to arrive at our canalside lodging. This gave us time to sightsee. Breda is in the heart of the North Brabant Province, it’s virtually surrounded by bike-friendly parks, and it has a history that dates back to 1252.
Stage Three: Breda to Dordrecht 41,4 km
We leave on another warm, sunny morning. This is a pretty technical ride today, with lots of transitions. We work our way out of Breda on dedicated fietspads, once again. They safely take us through underpasses and over overpasses, with a few roadway crossings. Ride straight through Terheiden. Then follow signs to Wagenburg. Continue on through Hellkant, where we cross the road and continue on through Hooge Zwaluwe. As often happens, in can get a bit confusing getting through some towns. More signage here, would have been helpful. The path changes from paved to dirt and then back to paving, as we pass fields and canal. We are on the roadway with cycles and cars for a short while and then a split path, up or down, with grazing sheep in between. Then the route takes us directly into Lage Zwaluwe. Today is a Sunday and there are many cyclists out for family outings. The path goes under a rail crossing and then follows the tracks, before crossing them. We are just following signs. We continue over a waterway, next to the busy highway…but we’re separated with a nice wide path. There’s a railing in between. This is “Hollandische Diep” It’s a long, long bridge. After the bridge, we are in the Provence of South Holland. We follow signs and cross another rail track. After a little bridge, we are on a multi use fietspad, past some woods. We zig zag with the path. Below us is a road and fields as we are led into Dordrecht. There is a canal, both to the left and the right. Soon there are several roundabouts, an underpass and a road crossing. We are staying near the rail station, so we follow signs that indicate the station. Another underpass, a park and a canal and we reach our lodging, near the center of town. Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland. It survived Viking destruction in the ninth century and cataclysmic floods and fires in the fifteenth century and became the boating capitol of South Holland.
Stage Four: Dordrecht to Kinderdijk 16,0 km
This is a short ride today that starts with a ride to the ferry. We will then be following canals most of the route. We were awakened this morning to a wild thunder and lightening storm, so we lingered over breakfast and waited for the skies to clear. Then we were off to the ferry landing and there were a number of other cyclists on the ferry today; but, there was a place made for us all. It’s a short river crossing for a small fee on a nice ferry to arrive at Papendrecht.
Again, another storm front, so we hunkered down for this bout of thunder, lightening and rain to pass over. Thankfully, the wait was not too long. We then maneuvered through town and then onto a fietspad. Then we followed this through several roundabouts. It is basically straight ahead and then over a bridge. At the end, we are turning left. This will take us to the very pretty little town of Oud Alblas, with it’s flower, cottages, canals and grazing sheep. We cross the canal, leave town and see our first of many windmills, or molen, for today. We are not far now from the famed molen of Kinderdijk. This is where the windmill ride begins, although we’re still around 1500 meters from the grouping of nineteen. It’s really nice that these paths are paved. Even after a rain, you don’t have to deal with the mud. It’s nice paved asphalt here, with street lights, no less. This area gets quite a breeze, so we get to see a number of the old windmills in action. We have a canal on either side of the path.
In the winter, when this freezes over, they have ice skating on this canal. We know because we’ve seen pictures. All the molens are different from each other and we stopped to take lots of pictures. After all, this is a World Heritage site. The town of Kinderdyjk is small and does not have many places to stay, as the area gets lots of tour groups that come for a short visit to the mills and then head back to a larger town. We chose to stay over and had made reservations. We checked in, left or bags and headed back down the row of molens, unencumbered by bags, to explore further. We ended the day in this welcoming small town with a pub meal and a good nights sleep.
Stage Five: Kinderdijk to Gouda 26,6 km
After another big thunder, lightening and rain storm last night we awoke to clear skies this morning. We made our way from our B&B to the ferry landing for our first crossing of today, across the Lek River to Krimpen. After arriving at Krimpen on de Lek, we follow signs to the Landlijk Fietsroute-2. There is a bit of meandering and then we are off the fietspad and onto a small road between the two canals. There is not much traffic. Then back on a path. Much of this will be on the “polders” or raised hills that offer refuge from lower areas that my flood. We enter Gouderak and watch for the sign to the ferry. This Ferry takes people, and cycles, back and forth and back and forth across the river Ijssel; and fortunately, it runs frequently. We ride straight ahead on the roadway from the landing in Moordrect. Then soon we see the sign to the two way fietspad that leads us out of town. From here we are watching for signs to Gouda. We cross over a canal in the fietspad of a bridge. We cross a few more roadways and ride beside more canals as we make turn after turn until we reach our B and B on a quiet street near the centrum. Famed for the wonderful Gouda cheese, the large market square is a must to visit, especially on market day.
The square is noted for it’s historic buildings. The Rathuis, city hall, has stood in the town square since 1450, and the Waag, weigh house, is now the home of the Cheese Museum.
Stage Six: Gouda to Delft 30,3 km
Nice weather the next morning as we wind out way through one way streets and over a little pedestrian bicycle bridge….. next to a canal. We pass under the rail tracks near the Gouda station and soon we’re in the outskirts of Gouda beside the highway. We’re on a two-way cycle path with the line down the middle. We’ll be skirting around some really major autoroutes today, cause this is a really busy section of the Netherlands, with lots of highways; but our routes will take us, whenever we are beside the highways, it’ll be on the safe fietspad… and this will get us around safely. We cross over the Gau River on a drawbridge and then over an auto route on another bridge. Watch for the sign to the Haag. We’re not going there; but, we are going in that direction. We’re in the countryside again with the cows and sheep co-habitating in the same field; but, an industrial area and highway not far away, based on the sound. We cross the rail tracks and then encounter road construction. There are some signs on this detour for cycles; but, it was confusing and a delay. These things happen from time to time and place to place. This is the Rotte river .. coming up. We cross it on a fietsbridge and then wind around under the auto route on the fietspad. Eventually we pass under the freeway. This is fairly new construction of this cycle route. When we see the sign to Pijnaker, we turn off. Looks like we are back on track, after the unexpected construction detour. We follow this road beneath the Zuidweg overpass and into the small suburb of Zoetemeer. Finally we spot a sign for Delft. We follow this fietspad and ride on to cross over this pretty little canal, and then over a little bridge, fietsbridge, over another small canal. Delft can’t be far now. We pass farms and greenhouses and officially enter Pijnaker. We pass the rail station and continue on through town. Next is Delftgau. Traffic is building and we are happy to be on the fietspad and not in the roadway. We leave Delfgau as we pass under the highway and continue beside the road toward the right. Seconds later, we’re on a huge roundabout, working our way toward the centrum. At Oostplein, we’re right across the street from the Old Town. This is an excellent back door way into Delft. We cross at the intersection and ride a nice wide fietspad. Then we cross over a drawbridge that swings in and out to let the boats go through…and then right after the drawbridge is a right turn and just a lovely entrance to the old town through this old town gate.
It’s well used today. And immediately up and over a little bridge and down the street. What a pretty approach, down this canal with the church spire up ahead. Our hotel is also a bakery and right in the heart of things; but, still on a quiet street. Good choice.
We checked in and headed out to tour the town. When the national arsenal exploded and destroyed Delft in the seventeenth Century, they decided to rebuild the town around a different industry: porcelain. Several shops carry the traditional “depftware” and you can watch the craftspeople create the intricate patterns, as their ancestors have for centuries.
Delft is the birthplace of painter Johann Vermeer and there is a museum dedicated to him.
The tourist office has a walking tour, which is easy to follow for a self guided tour of this historic town. Next morning was Market Day on the square and after a wonderful breakfast, we strolled the square to check out what was on offer, before we left for the next days ride.
Stage Seven: Delft to Leiden 24,9 km
This is not a long ride; but, it is a bit technical. We head out of town, past the Vermeer Museum, Fish market and Tourist information. This is a major road and the way the trams go as well; but, we are on a fietspad. We will be crossing a bridge and the tram tracks to ride beside a canal on the path. We pass under an auto route and under a drawbridge. We are using a canal known as the Delftse Schie, part of an ancient system of shipping canals that is still used heavily for recreation cruising and other kinds of boat traffic. This route bypasses other heavily trafficked routes. We ride on past the Salimander Molen and then turn off to ride through farmland. This is really a pleasant path, through fields and woods and over little bridges. We are back beside the canal and we cross a little foot-cycle bridge: Vlietland Brug. We ride through a park and then on to a main street. There is a sign pointing toward the Centrum. As we cross this canal we leave Voorschoten and ride on to cross a little canal. We’re entering Leiden…officially. But not at the Centrum yet. That is still several kilometers ahead. We continue on and through a fietsers tunnel to take us under a busy roadway. There are several road crossings on fietspads and we follow signs to Centrum and past a windmill. Finally, we cross a bridge and rail tracks and see the sign for Tourist Information. This is a busy University town and lots of traffic, even when school is not in session. We pass several University buildings as we head down a pretty canal on the way to our B and B. This town not only has a well known University; but also has eleven museums and was the birthplace of Rembrandt. His statue is prominently placed.
Being at the confluence of the Aud Rhein and the Nieuwe Rhein, Leiden was a center of commerce as early as the fourth century.
Stage Eight: Leiden to Haarlem 44,9 km
Today, we head toward the coast on local roads and fietspads; then follows the coastline into the Dunes. We leave town by retracing our entry; again passing the same windmill; but, turning off before the fietsers tunnel to follow signs that indicate Amsterdam. This takes us over a bridge and loops around a bit before putting us on a section of roadway, instead of fietspad through a wooded neighborhood backroad and then under an overpass and we ride on till we see a sign pointing us in the direction of Katwijk. We are on a fietspad heading through some major round abouts and also on some multi use roads. We arrive a Katwijk; turn off and head over to ride past some of the many seaside hotels and B&B’s of this resort town. It’s windy today, as you might expect on the shore. We ride all the way up the promenade, then turn and cross a bridge and the Nord Sea Route is just ahead. This mostly paved two-way path serpentines up and down among the sagebrush and sand; only interspersed now and then with sandy trails to the beach. The Dunes were once used for grazing cattle and for water control and now they’re major recreation area for cyclists and walkers. The Dunes are a popular destination of cyclists, walkers, joggers and other lovers of nature. We catch sight of some of the resort buildings of Nordwijk, up ahead. It was a little complicated, finding our way out of town on a fietspad once again. Once found, we decided to head to a more inland route to avoid the steady headwinds. This isn’t the national route; the LF1 continued on from Noordwijk back into the dunes. Now, we’re watching for the red and white ANWB signs pointing us toward Zandvoort. The weather is also getting noticeably darker, meaning that the forecasted showers are imminent. We enjoyed the diversion from the gusty winds for a while before heading back into the dunes, just before Zandvoort. We watch for the ANWB white mushroom path markers to guide us through the dunes. ANWB is like the Automobile Club in the US; but, also is very useful for cyclists. A little jog in the road is where Duinweg becomes Randweg and we continue straight ahead. Now… we’re now entering North Holland … and Zandvoort. We leave the Dunes to begin our meander through Zandvoort. When we reaach Zandvoortselaan, a major intersection, we cross and watch carefully. We will actually be taking the LF1 route, which takes us away from the busy Zandvoort streets that don’t have fietspads. Shortly, we are back on a fietspad; however, that takes us on a nice straight back way that goes quite a ways. As we near Ardenhout, we see our first direction sign to Haarlem. We reach Zandvoorterweg and there will be several crossings on the fietspad as we get closer to Haarlem. We are on a dirt and mud path for a while, through some woods. It makes us feel like we are far from civilization. This doesn’t last and for the final stretch into Haarlem, we are beside a busy road on a red brick fietspad. We keep following signs to the Centrum and ride beside a canal and past several bridges, until we reach the fietsers and pedestrian bridge with a narrow town street on the opposite side. The spire is our beacon, ahead. As this leads to the central square and our hotel.
In Haarlem, we left our bikes at the Fietsenstalling, a parking lot for bicycles, while we stayed at our hotel and got ready for our trip to Schipol Airport. We ventured out for a visit to the famed Frans Hals Museum and then hunkered down for a cozy dinner as the rains had returned with a vengeance.
On our final ride, we exit Haarlem, heading south to Boerhaavelaan, joining Schipolweg and ending back where we started at Schipol airport, a 19 kilometer ride.