On the ski hills, on the bike trails, and thru life in general

Archive for July, 2014

Leiden – Delft Loop

My intent in writing this blog was to give family and friends a bit of an insight to my experiences while on my latest cycling trip. Circumstances, as noted in my first entry, were that I did not have the inclination, nor sometimes the ability (no internet), to keep it updated every day. Normally, I would make a few notes on what happened during the day – where we lunched, what we saw, etc – on my phone or even make a voice recording or two. I also tracked all the rides on my Garmin 305 and took a lot of pictures, which were great for jogging my memory. But jogging my memory only works for as long as I can remember stuff :/ And this ride was the only one that I neglected to make any notes on. So, armed (and alarmed) with a steadily rusting memory, here goes:

June 11 – Wednesday.  This day was to be our final, and longest, bike ride of our time with Ad. Blessed with another blue sky and warm temperatures, we again struck out from our hotel in Leiden, this time heading to Delft. Once out of the city, it was another relaxing ride on well maintained bike paths beside canals and pastures, cattle and sheep, and by acres of greenhouses. Maintaining an easy cruising speed of 16-18 kph for about 25 kilometres, we stopped for a mid-morning beer/coffee at a conveniently located café with a lovely patio. We were greeted by a pet peacock in the parking lot who seemed none too happy to see us, as it squawked and took flight into a neighbour’s yard. The café staff, if 1 person can be called a staff, was happy to have the business though.

Passing by small canals suitable for pleasure boats. With bikes tied on the back!

Passing by small canals suitable for pleasure boats. With bikes tied on the back!

The typically beautiful separated bike trails on the way to Delft.

The typically beautiful separated bike trails on the way to Delft, alongside pastures and farm fields.

Sometimes trails and pastures became one and the same.

Sometimes trails and pastures became one and the same.

Wooly, but cute, moving obstacles.

Wooly, but cute, moving obstacles.

Greenhouses - acres and acres of them...

Greenhouses – acres and acres of them…

And more acres and acres. They went on forever on this trail.

And more acres and acres. They went on forever on this trail.

Spooked up a peacock when we went to a cafe. Hopefully not too traumatized.

Spooked up a peacock when we went to a cafe. Didn’t know they could fly that well.

90-minites into our ride, time for our first beer, or second coffee.

90-minites into our ride, time for our first beer, or second coffee.

Once on the trail again, the ride continued through woods, over pretty little bridges, and beside more pastures and canals, until we reached Delft around noon. As with all the other towns and cities over here, the market square is the focal point of tourist activity. Bounded on one end by the New Church (completed in 1498, 200 years after the Old Church), on the other by the city hall, and on the sides by restaurants and stores, the Delft market was a scenic and, surprisingly, quiet place to relax and have some lunch. Ad gave us 2 hours to sightsee so the group split up according to their priorities – some to eat right away (it was noon, after all), some to check out the New Church, and others to window shop. A few of us headed over to the visitor center for maps and on the way passed a bike store, just a block off the square! Unlike most of the other bike stores we went to, this one was fully supplied with an assortment of clothing – including some nice looking jerseys. So, with one more jersey added to my expanding international collection – 3 from France (2 years ago), 2 from Holland – we went off to check out the New Church.

The church is the burial place of the princes of Orange, as well as more recent Dutch royalty. The public can’t visit the royal crypt but the monument to William of Orange, assassinated in Delft in 1584, is quite prominent. Also in the church are many posters describing the history of the House of Orange and the political intrigue of the times. It was like reading Game of Thrones, but more bloody! Consider the Wikipedia entry for William of Orange, and how his assassin was dealt with:

“He was tortured before his trial on 13 July, where he was sentenced to be brutally – even by the standards of that time – killed. The magistrates decreed that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disembowelled alive, that his heart should be torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be cut off.”

The New Church in Delft. New because the Old Church, a few blocks away, is 200 years older :/

The New Church in Delft. New because the Old Church, a few blocks away, is 200 years older :/

Organ in the New Church. Typically huge.

Organ in the New Church. Typically huge.

Monument crypt of William of Orange in the New Church.

Monument crypt of William of Orange in the New Church.

Delft city hall, at the other end of the markt square from the church.

Delft city hall, at the other end of the markt square from the church.

I would have liked to spend more time in the church, climb the bell tower, and visit the Old Church just a few blocks away but time was running short and we still had to have lunch. Among the many restaurants on the square, we found one that had delicious bagel sandwiches and fruit smoothies – quite a change from our usual beer lunch!

Delft town square reflected in a cheese store window (thanks Donna/Darryl).

Delft town square reflected in a cheese store window (thanks Donna).

We could have spent more time in Delft, since there was a lot more to see, but Ad was due to leave for his home in North Holland in the evening. It was at least a 3-hour trip by train and bike, and we wanted to have supper with him so we got back on the bikes shortly after 2 pm. The trip back to Leiden was, again, on beautiful scenic trails and was a joy. Two hours later, we arrived at the rental shop, turned our bikes in, and walked the kilometre back to the hotel.

A more rustic trail on the way back to Leiden.

A more rustic trail on the way back to Leiden.

Mike on his single-speed.

Mike on his single-speed (thanks Darryl).

Still passing windmills. Such a scenic route.

Still passing windmills. Such a scenic route.

Chaos reigned at the bike rental shop. An American girls field hockey team was returning theirs at the same time to a thoroughly disorganized clerk.

Chaos reigned at the bike rental shop. An American girls field hockey team was returning theirs at the same time to a thoroughly disorganized clerk.

After a nice supper at El Gaucho, an Argentinean restaurant in Leiden that we had eaten at a few days before, we bade goodbye to Ad. The next 4 days would be bicycle-free (almost).

After our bike/barge week, I was asked which day was my favourite. I couldn’t pick out one at the time but, after the Delft trip, I’d have to say that it was this day. Why, I’m not sure, but the combination of perfect weather, cloudless sky, scenic trails, more time on the bike, fewer stops, and Delft itself all contributed. I found it to be the most relaxing and enjoyable day of the 10 days that we rode. A perfect end to a wonderful bike trip!

Route link: Leiden to Delft loop

Rode 60 km

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Leiden – Den Haag Loop

June 10 – Tuesday.  We stored the rental bikes in the hotel basement lockup overnight so we didn’t have to make the 1 km trek back to the shop in the morning. As such, we were able to mount up shortly after 0900 under warm, sunny skies and head southwest out of Leiden on our way to the coast, then inland to The Hague. We skirted to the south of the Valkenburg Naval Air Base, with nary a plane to be heard or seen, on nearly abandoned trails. After the holiday long weekend, most locals were back at work and the trails were left mainly to the tourists. Eleven kilometres later we were back in the dunes area, heading south, just a kilometre east of the North Sea. We were on a fietsroute (specifically, the Noordzee Route), one of the many long distance cycle trails, as opposed to the short commuting trails, that run throughout the country. It was not only scenic, with the sand hills and greenery, but the trail itself was pretty fancy, constructed of well laid cross-hatched brickwork. Talk about your labour-intensive project!

The elaborate brickwork trail to Scheveningen. Follow the tawny brick road!

The elaborate brickwork trail to Scheveningen. Follow the tawny brick road!

Gerry and Mike waiting patiently for the group to start riding again.

Gerry and Mike waiting patiently for the group to start riding again.

The brick trail led us into the Scheveningen area of Den Haag, an attractive seaside resort. We locked our bikes up on a main street across from a very imposing building, the Dutch flag fluttering off many of it’s domes and turrets. I initially thought that Ad was going to show us some high-profile government building but it turned out to be a 5-star hotel, the Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel. Wanting to get to the beach just beyond it and not seeing a way around, we opted to just traipse through their lobby – in the front door and out the back. Passing by the hotel dining room, I was reminded of Versailles by the opulence of the place! Ad told us that the hotel was the first concert venue for the Rolling Stones in Holland, back in 1964. A star plaque was inlaid in the back deck of the hotel to commemorate the event (even though the concert had spawned a riot), as well as ones for Golden Earring and Bon Jovi.

Locking the bikes up across the street from the Kurhuis hotel.

Locking the bikes up across the street from the Kurhuis hotel.

The ornate dining room of the Kurhuis.

The ornate dining room of the Kurhuis.

The stars in the walk of fame on the back patio of the hotel - The Rolling Stones, Golden Earring, and Bon Jovi.

The stars in the walk of fame on the back patio of the hotel – The Rolling Stones, Golden Earring, and Bon Jovi. Appropriately placed in the shadow of a half naked woman.

No explanation necessary.

No explanation necessary.

The size of the beach was immense, even larger than the beaches of Katwijk and Noordwijk! With it being a regular workday, there were very few locals and tourists to clutter it up. An out of commission (bankrupt) boardwalk blocked the horizon to the north but the south was just an expanse of empty well-groomed beach, sea and sky. What a summer playground!

The beach looking north, with the now unused boardwalk cutting across it.

The beach looking north, with the now unused boardwalk cutting across it.

The beach, looking south. Sand, sea and sky!

The beach, looking south. Sand, sea and sky to the horizon!

A little more than an hour later, we were off again. After a few kilometres, we passed another war monument. But this time, instead of honouring fallen foreign soldiers, this monument honoured Dutch citizens. It was The Indies Monument, erected in memory of all Dutch citizens and soldiers who died in battle, in prison camps or during forced labour during World War II as a result of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. Ad said that, although he had seen it many times on TV in ceremonies, he had never seen it in person. It was ironic that, by leading a bunch of Canadians around his country, he too was able to experience some of his country’s history.

The Indies Monument, honouring the Dutch who died by Japanese hands during WW2 in the former Dutch East Indies.

The Indies Monument, honouring the Dutch who died by Japanese hands during WW2 in the former Dutch East Indies.

Not long after that, we came to the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice – the principal judiciary of the United Nations. We were not allowed in the building, or even onto the gated grounds, but it did have an interesting public museum attached that explained the history of the place and it’s function in international affairs.

The Peace Palace in The Hague.

The Peace Palace in The Hague.

Ad gave us 2.5 hours in downtown Den Haag to check the place out. We got maps from a visitor’s info kiosk but, rather than explore museums, Gerry and I spent the time looking for bike stores and having coffee/lunch. The sky had been darkening all morning and, by the time we were set loose in the city, the rain started coming down. Although we visited about half a dozen bike shops and sporting goods stores, we were unsuccessful finding jerseys that were identifiably Dutch. Ad later told us that, unlike the ubiquitous orange Holland football jerseys, the Dutch do not trumpet their country on cycling apparel. Both Ad and Tom commented on the number of Canada jerseys that our group wore, noting that Canadians like to be recognized as such (we told them that we do that so we wouldn’t be confused with Americans). We did, however, find a very comfortable coffee shop and went there twice (friendly and attractive waitress) to wait out the rain.

When we met Ad back at our appointed meeting place, he told me to get on my bike and follow him – he had found a bike store for me about a 5-minute ride away, but they were closing and we had to hurry! Biking in the city, especially a Dutch city, is not for the faint of heart. The locals know all the rules and know where they are going. Trying to follow Ad, speeding down rain-slicked sidewalks, lanes, and roads busy with traffic, took my riding experience there to another level altogether. Unfortunately, although the store did have some nice looking jerseys, none were in my size. So back we sped to our meeting place where everyone was now waiting for us in a light drizzle.

The 90-minute trip back to Leiden was damp but not cold, fortunately. The only mishap was a tube with a slow leak, requiring Ad to stop periodically to pump it up. Thankfully, it never went completely flat.

Pumping up a slow leak. Changing a tube on an internal hub bike, especially on the rear, is a huge pain. We had patches but, thankfully, stopping to replenish air every 5-10 km was sufficient to get it home.

Pumping up a slow leak. Changing a tube on an internal hub bike, especially on the rear, is a huge pain. We had patches but, thankfully, stopping to replenish air every 5-10 km was sufficient to get it home.

Gray and drizzly but not cold.

Gray and drizzly but not cold.

Route : Leiden to The Hague

Rode: 46 km

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